St. Maarten’s Wild Birds are Consuming Large Amounts of Single-Use Plastics

The Nature Foundation St Maarten once more points out the danger of single-use plastics in our environment and nature, and recently located many plastics in our natural habitats. In the last weeks, the Nature Foundation witnessed on several occasions birds to be eating our single-use plastics thinking it is food. This pattern, of animals eating plastic thinking it is food, happens to many other birds, marine life species and numerous other species on St Maarten, mainly because of the large amount of single-use plastics being litter. The Nature Foundation once more urges the need of banning single-use plastics for St Maarten and truly encourages all businesses and residents to reduce single-use plastics and use reusable and biodegradable alternatives instead.

“If a bird eats a single-use plastic, the plastic will block access to food in its throat and stomach, leading to the death of the animal. Or the stomach of the bird can accumulate plastics over time, leaving no space for food, causing the bird eventually to starve and die. Beside the destructive impacts on birds, these plastics are also being ingested by many order species and are a significant threat causing starvation to sea turtles, marine mammals, other wildlife and fish species. Regularly, these species starve to death due to the accidental ingestion of plastics or often they think the plastic is actually food. Plastic does not just look like food, for many animals it smells, feels and even sounds like food, as plastic pieces collect algae and take on an odor that is similar to food that species consume” explained Nature Foundation’s Projects and Research Officer Melanie Meijer zu Schlochtern.

Plastic items do not biodegrade and stay in the ecosystems and oceans for ever, causing impacts to the environment, animals and even us humans. Plastic releases harmful chemicals when it breaks down into smaller pieces that are ingested by many birds, wildlife, marine life and eventually humans. At least 180 species of marine animals have been documented consuming plastic, from tiny plankton to gigantic whales. It is estimated that about 700 marine species are currently threatened with extinction due to the risk of ingesting or becoming entangled in plastic waste.

“These pictures show us all the reasons why we should refuse single-use plastics and need a ban for these plastics, why we should not litter and cleanup our environment instead. We are asking all businesses and residents to stop using single-use plastics and use biodegradable and reusable alternatives instead, we have to take responsibility in our own hands and we do not have the time anymore to wait until the government bans these items” continued Meijer zu Schlochtern.

Reduce and Reuse project is designed to teach and encourage residents, children and businesses to reduce their waste output and clean-up the environment. The Nature Foundation started the project after Hurricane Irma hit the island and an increase of the already large amounts of single-use plastic waste was found in the environment, nature and waters surrounding Sint Maarten.

Photo caption 1 and 2: Great Egret bird eating single-use plastics on our island photo credit; Etienne Lake.