PLASTIC: THE NEW MEMBER OF THE FOODCHAIN

We can often see photographs of marine animals eating plastics or stuck in plastic bags. Have you ever wondered why they can’t stop eating plastic even after having a highly developed sense of predation? Usually, the common answer is that there is so much plastic everywhere in the ocean that they cannot avoid bumping into it and eating it. But the reality is different than this. A new study states that plastic smells like food to these animals.

In the ocean, algae thrive on the plastic waste that is dumped into the ocean. When algae break down naturally in the ocean, it emits a gas called dimethyl sulphide. Algae is consumed by a crustacean called Krill which in turn is consumed by seabirds. Whenever these seabirds get the sulphur odor, it serves as a dinner bell for them and they head towards the source of the odor in search of food. Thus the birds feed on the plastic instead of feeding on Krill.

The solution to this situation may be to alter the surface of the plastic so that it becomes less hospitable to plastic or to make biodegradable plastic. But before we come to this solution, we need to think how to use less plastic in our daily life. We can reduce our plastic usage by refusing to accept plastic in any way by choosing better alternatives to plastic like cloth, glass or metal. Even if we manage to accumulate plastic in our home, we can recycle or reuse it to make sure we do not contribute to the plastic menace of the world.