Microplastics pose a serious threat for our Planet. Especially to small marine living beings, which tend to feed on them by mistaking them for plankton. These minor organisms are in turn inserted into the food chain and being ingested by larger living beings and their predators.
The chain can continue until it reaches our tables. Controlling the release of these plastics into the environment therefore means safeguarding marine fauna. Many marine animals such as seagulls or seals have ingested microplastics, affecting health.
A study published in Nature Scientific Reports reveals that waste abandoned in nature by every human being causes injury or death for all animal species. Waste dispersed in the environment, especially plastic and microplastics, are a threat to animals, especially marine ones.
Plastic of all shapes and sizes floats and travels with currents, and is ingested by unfortunate animals, often causing their death. The researchers analyzed all the photo and video content published on social networks, from 1999 to 2019, of terrestrial animals stuck or dead inside containers.
503 cases were found, coming from all parts of the world. An estimate made in England by the Journal of Litter and Environmental Quality indicates, for example, that every year about 2.9 million rodents and shrews are killed inside the containers abandoned in the wild.
How many animals are dying from our garbage
The smaller the size, the more likely it is that a single container will trap multiple individuals. Most of the cases occurred in urbanized areas, but about 30% in natural environments, indicating that this is a rather widespread problem.
In the case of mammals, reptiles and birds, the main problem is that they get stuck with their heads inside the container. The Philippines a whale was found with 40 kg of plastic in its stomach. But waste is an equally serious danger to land-dwelling animals, even if it is a much less analyzed phenomenon.
According to the study published in Scientific Reports, at least 12% of land animals affected by the waste are considered endangered by IUCN. Obviously this is an underestimation of the phenomenon, because only the most obvious cases are reported on social networks, and it is easier for news relating to the most charismatic species to be shared.
It is no coincidence that mammals are the masters, with 395 cases, while insects are only a small percentage, even if in reality they count as many as 1050 deaths.