The Effect Plastic Bags Have on the Death of Wildlife


Doing something as simple as using reusable shopping bags can save the earth’s wildlife. A devastating number of turtles, birds, whales and other animals are killed yearly due to plastic bags being mistaken for food like jellyfish. Once a plastic bag is ingested by an animal, it cannot be digested so it sits in the animal’s gut, preventing other food digestion and resulting in an extremely painful and slow death.

A plastic bag can literally take 1000 years before it breaks down so after one animal dies from eating the plastic and its body decays, the plastic is left behind and can be ingested by another animal.

Turtle Food

Approximately 40 percent of autopsies done on turtles confirm the death being due to plastic bags stuck in their intestinal tract. When plastic bags float on the water, they look very similar to jellyfish which are a favorite food source for some turtles. These deaths can be prevented if everyone would simply use reusable grocery bags every time they go to the store.

One turtle in 2007 was found to have more than 50 items in her intestinal tract including nylon rope, plastic bags, cling film, balloons and candy wrappers. The less plastic that enters into the environment, the safer the wildlife will be.

Shameful Seas

A Bryde’s whale that became stranded and died on Cairns beach in August, 2000 had an autopsy done to reveal 20 square feet of tightly packed plastic, primarily shopping bags, lodged in its stomach. So many whales like this one die in the ocean where the plastic eventually is exposed back into the water for other sea creatures to feed on, creating a viscous cycle.

It is estimated that over 100,000 marine creatures are killed each year because of plastic pollution. These animals are not dying instantly, they are suffering. Imagine not being able to digest any food and then not being able to eat because of it and literally just starving yourself to death all because of plastic bags and other plastic products. Every time consumers go to the store they make a conscious decision to either use a reusable shopping bag or not. It is not understandable why anyone would still choose to use traditional bags, knowing the harm that they are creating.

Changes Coming?

It is not uncommon to find flamingos, platypus and other animals, strangled from getting tangled in plastic bags and not being able to twist their way out. In Australia in 2008, a crocodile was found dead with 25 plastic bags in its stomach. Additionally, pelicans, seagulls and other birds are found daily with the same cause of death.

Due to these figures and other environmental concerns, many countries such as Bangladesh, Taiwan, China and Italy have either banned plastic bags completely or have issued laws to charge for them, making reusable bags the primary choice.

Sadly, in the United States, plastic industries rally hard to resist possible laws or bans, claiming that jobs will disappear. It is estimated that Americans throw away a minimum of 100 billion bags per year. Some cities, however are taking their own approach. Places like New York City are talking about imposing a six cents tax per plastic bag dispensed. Many stores already offer small incentives to consumers that bring their own Eco-friendly bags with them when doing their shopping.

Small changes are happening but you do not have to wait for city taxes or state laws to make a difference. Stop using plastic bags today to save the animals of tomorrow.

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