Seabirds are eating plastic because it smells like food

❝ Plastic pollution in the sea gives off a smell that attracts foraging birds, scientists have found…The discovery could explain why seabirds such as the albatross swallow plastic, causing injury or death.

The smell, similar to the odour of rotting seaweed, is caused by the breakdown of plankton that sticks to floating bits of plastic…About 90% of seabirds have eaten plastic and may keep some in their bellies, putting their health at risk…

❝ Scientists think seabirds associate the smell of plastic with food – and are tricked into swallowing plastic waste…

“We found a chemical on plastic that these birds typically associate with food, but now it’s being associated with plastic…And so these birds might be very confused – and tricked into consuming plastic as food.”

❝ The chemical – dimethyl sulfide – has a characteristic sulphurous odour associated with boiling cabbage or decaying seaweed…It is also produced in the oceans through the breakdown of microscopic algae or phytoplankton, which collects on plastic.

Seabirds with a keen sense of smell, including albatrosses, petrels and shearwaters, can detect this odour, which they associate with food.

What a species we are. Most critters are smart enough not to crap in their own nest. But, the world is our whole nest, folks. We need to require those who despoil our oceans and continents to take responsibility for their mess. And, better yet, stop them from making a mess in the first place.

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