Deadly Plastic

While on Lord Howe we attended an information evening by renowned ecologist and bird photographer Ian Hutton. After introducing us to all the residential and visiting birds on the island he showed some horrific photos of dead chicks killed by ingesting plastic. Apparently sea birds think that anything floating on the sea is food, so they pick up pieces of plastic, bring them back to the nest or burrow, and feed their chicks. Researchers have found that the birds range as far as 500 km from the island, collecting the deadly plastic. How does it get there? Despite the remote location plastic that spills into the sea, particularly along the coast of Asia, finds its way south and is becoming more common in the Tasman Sea.


plastic from inside dead shearwater chicks


stuart drawing in the forest

When we were in the forest above Middle Beach I noticed little sharp edged plastic fragments on the ground. It was an area rich in the burrows of the Flesh-footed Shearwater. These are the pieces of plastic I recovered in a few minutes walking along the trail. When I asked someone how they got there they said it could only have come from the dead bodies of chicks who perished from plastic ingestion. We can only try harder to clean up any debris that might enter the ocean and injure the birds and turtles and fish. Australian Ian Kiernan started a campaign many years ago to Clean up Australia, now he has taken it to the world! Join in wherever you are, the great struggle to clean up the world, to safe our wildlife and ourselves from the plastic menace. Consider your consumption choices carefully, ask manufacturers to reduce packaging, use your own shopping bags, avoid plastic drink bottles …. all this and more …. there must be hope for change if we all work together.

If you would like to know more about the problem this is an in-depth story by Catalyst, the Australian Science program, talking to a researcher this year.

23 thoughts on “Deadly Plastic

  1. Well done for promoting this issue Christine. It’s the same the world over and we need to encourage everyone to dispose of their plastic items in a thoughtful way. Just re-using a plastic bag a few times is a step in the right direction! Moving to cloth bags is great and to be encouraged 🙂 Recycle those plastic bottles – that’s your next Fleece 🙂

    • yes thanks for mentioning the turtles carl, and of course the fish are all affected too …. we are creating a toxic soup of the once pristine oceans … what can we do?

  2. my friend Barb sent me this message …

    Hi Christine,

    Your last post was so important. I’ve looked at a lot of information about the garbage dump in Pacific Ocean and it is sickening. It’s becoming a “synthetic sea” and so heartbreaking. It washes up on the beaches and then is carried into land and kills land birds as well. I couldn’t say all I wanted to say about it on a comment or by sending video, but here is just one example of what is happening and what more they are discovering. There should be billboards along the roads by the ocean! Thanks for that post! And glad you’re back at the helm in good health and spirits!

    Love, Barb

  3. Well said Christine. This is an important issue, and we need to raise our voice regarding it. You did it in a wonderful way. We all need to take the responsibility to bring this change. Great post.

  4. Great you raised this vexed question of indestructible plastic! So sad to see that plastic seems to have replaced all natural containers these days, even here, in paradise! I’m glad to report though, that my local council is now demanding we separate out our garbage for recycling – one small step in the right direction. By the way, glad to know fleeces are recycled plastics. 🙂

    • good to hear about the recycling … i saw a story on brazil in which an entrepreneur is employing the poor to sort the valuables at the waste centre, and everyone wins … they are making money and recycling too

      • It’s being done by companies here now and that’s a bit sad, in a country where, only ten or fifteen years ago everything was reused and reinterpreted – and yes, where people made their livings from coming around to collect glass, or paper, or unwanted items of cloth or other materials.

        Nowadays, nobody but the most remote of village women would be seen dead using a malla – a woven reed bag – preferring to sport advertising-laden plastic shopping bags, and we never hear the sound of the recycling men coming down the street.

  5. Such a big problem. And it’s always so hard for me to understand why some people don’t bother with recycling. It’s not difficult. And to leave them where birds can ingest them is simply laziness. Such a big problem, and it could so easily be solved! Good job of highlighting the issue!

  6. Good post, making it personal, which is important. I also consider, corporations are fined and made responsible for pollution spills… for what it’s worth, yet it’s left to everyman/woman to make a consumer choice re plastic when other [yes, slightly less viable shareholder profit] options are available. Shame.

      • yes it is the same everywhere …. not everyone has the same capacity to organise themselves … we need to take the problem to the manufacturers too, maybe they can design biodegradable plastic that will be less harmful to the environment … or work out how to stop it entering the oceans … or how to collect it from the sea … so many options for those who are willing and put life before profit 🙂 over here we have coca cola and mt franklin blocking the deposit system on returned plastic bottles … now if they agreed to it that would make a difference!

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