Its a load of tosh though, isn't it?
Plastic waste, including from single-use carrier bags, poses a major and growing environmental threat to
wildlife, both terrestrial and marine1. Marine litter has a large impact on the marine environment as more
than one million birds and 100,000 marine mammals die each year from becoming entangled in or ingesting
marine litter2. Research has shown that plastic pieces, ranging in size from 0.5 mm to several centimetres in
diameter, are frequently ingested by many marine animals, including seabirds, turtles, marine mammals
and fish. Plastic bags are particularly attractive to turtles, as these resemble their prey, while smaller pieces
of plastic are frequently mistaken for food by several seabird and fish species.
Ingestion of plastic poses threats to the animals concerned on different levels, the severity of which varies
from species to species. One well-documented problem is blockage and ulceration of the gastro-intestinal
tract, which limits the passage and digestion of food, and can also lead to a reduction in perceived hunger
because of stomach distension. This can deplete fat reserves, necessary for breeding and the lengthymigrations undertaken by a number of marine species, and can ultimately result in starvation3. Plastic
consumption also leads to the accumulation of toxins, such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), which can
disrupt circulating hormone levels, leading to problems with fertility. Autopsies of dead animals found on
beaches or captured by fisherman have revealed significant quantities of plastic in their digestive system.
98% of Fulmars in the North Sea have plastic in their stomachs which can lead to a loss of physical
condition resulting in breeding failures and in severe cases death4. Another problem caused by plastic
marine debris is entanglement, leading to drowning. A 2006 global survey by International Coastal Clean-
up (ICC) reported that 2% of all animals found dead had been entangled in plastic bags. However, the
actual scale of the problem associated with plastic waste in the marine environment is difficult to assess
and likely underestimated, as many individuals affected die at sea and quickly sink or are scavenged by