If you've read the paper or listened to East Coast FM lately, you may have heard our Executive Director, Melanie Croce, talking about Seal Rescue Ireland's collaborative partnership with Wicklow Co. Council to protect Brides Head Beach, a crucial Grey seal haul-out site, during pupping and moulting season (August - April).
Seal Rescue Ireland is proud to be partaking in Plastic Free July and we would love for you to join in!
For the month of July, people around the world are pledging to be part of the solution to the plastic problem. Humans are currently producing nearly 300 million tonnes of plastic every year, 50% of which is for single use. More than 8 million tonnes of this is dumped into our oceans every year where it causes countless harm to hundreds of species of marine animals. There are an estimated million pieces of plastic to be found in every square mile of ocean. Clearly this is an issue that we all urgently need to address!
It is our goal this month to get as many people as possible moving towards a plastic-free lifestyle. While it is essential that industries reconsider the amount of plastic they use in production of goods, we can all make a difference on an individual level by changing our consumption habits. By using our purchasing power to support local, plastic free products we can start to mitigate the growing threat of plastic waste to our planet.
5 Simple Steps to kick off your Plastic Free July:
- Refuse non-essential plastics such as drinking straws and plastic cutlery.
- Opt for fruits, vegetables, meat and fish that aren’t pre-packaged in plastic.
- Set yourself reminders to keep reusable items on hand, such as cloth shopping bags, refillable water bottles and coffee mugs, and your own containers for takeaway.
- Seek out sustainable alternatives to everyday plastics, such as wooden/bamboo toothbrushes, razors with replaceable blades, compostable dog waste bags etc.
- Avoid littering and watch out for sneaky plastics you didn’t know were there! Cigarette butts contain plastic, as do many tea bags and most wet wipes. Certain products that most people consider to be recyclable, such as aluminum soda cans and tetra packs, may have sneaky plastic layers that mean they can only be recycled by specialized facilities!
Join us in helping to create a new normal with plastic-free habits. Download one or more of our Plastic Free July Pledge Cards below and make the commitment to reduce plastic waste. Choose your pledge, post the card to your Facebook or Instagram account and tag/mention Seal Rescue Ireland. (Everyone who posts a pledge card on Instagram and tags Seal Rescue Ireland is in with a chance to win your very own Seal Adoption!)
How Plastic Harms Ocean Ecosystems
Plastic Waste is harming our oceans in a number of ways. Unfortunately, the direct results of this can be seen in the seals that come through our centre. Continue reading to find out more about how plastic waste has affected some of our rescue seals.
How was Karma impacted by plastic waste?
Karma was in our care for a couple months before she started exhibiting very unusual behaviour, pushing up and down on her stomach in her kennel. Sadly she deteriorated very quickly and passed away. The post-mortem exam revealed a single crisp packet lodged in her intestinal tract, blocking any nutrients from being absorbed.
How was Pine impacted by plastic waste?
Pine was discovered entangled in thick nylon netting. As he continued to grow, the cord pressed tighter around his neck, creating a deep wound. Thankfully we reached him in time to cut the netting off and treat his wound. He made a full recovery and was released!
How was Spraxis impacted by plastic waste?
When Spraxis was taken in to SRI, he was tube-fed a hydrating electrolyte mixture. Shortly after he purged the contents of his stomach and we discovered several small pieces of plastic that he had ingested. Left untreated these would have been extremely damaging to his health!
How was Merida impacted by plastic waste?
Merida was found entangled in microfilament fishing line. The thin and sharp string was entangled around her neck and flipper. While the wound on her flipper was simple enough to treat, the pressure building around her neck had caused her left eye to become enflamed. We had the eye surgically removed and she was released, as seals can survive just fine in the wild with only one eye.
Diving deep into Plastic Pollution
Our work here at SRI is so vital, not only because we are helping save the lives of the seals that we are putting at risk with our dangerous habits, but because seals are a great indicator of the overall health of the ocean. As seals are much easier to study and track than larger marine mammals like whales and dolphins, being that they spend much of their life on land, they offer us a great first hand insight into how plastics may be impacting all sorts of marine animals.
While entanglement in discarded fishing gear certainly poses a continual danger to everything from seabirds and turtles to sharks and dolphins, there is a larger threat on the rise putting us all at risk in the form of microplastics. Plastics in the ocean can start to break down through the combination of sunlight, salt water and the movement of waves. In this sense, plastics actually break up rather than breaking down, presenting greater opportunity for animals to ingest them as they disperse into tiny fragments.
What’s even worse is that waterborne chemicals from industry and agriculture stick to the rough surfaces of microplastics making them even more toxic when ingested. The tiny pieces are virtually invisible in the vast ocean so all manner of sea creatures ingest them unwittingly. Based on hard, scientific evidence done by interns at Seal Rescue Ireland, we can confirm that 100% of wild caught herring contained microplastics and 77.5% of scat samples from our common seals contained at least one micro plastic. That means that there is an extremely high likelihood that the fish you buy from the supermarket, may also contain microplastics which can enter our systems and can be potentially harmful to our health.
In order to prevent the proliferation of this dangerous new threat, we must, at all costs, prevent any more plastic from entering our oceans than there already is! This change starts with you, so we hope that joining us for a Plastic Free July will be the start of lasting habits for the betterment of the planet.
Making a Larger Impact
Refusing excess plastic waste on an individual level is crucial to making this change, but if you are keen to make an impact on a larger level there are a lot of different ways you can do so!
- Make changes in your household:
Get the whole family or your flat mates involved by implementing plastic-free solutions to basic household needs. Instead of using bin bags, you can try lining the bin with old newspaper and then empty it directly into the dumpster. Make it a house rule not to buy and use cling film—use aluminium foil or reusable containers instead.
- Get your workplace involved:
Conduct a bin audit to discover all the ‘waste’ that could be avoided, recycled or composted instead of thrown in the bin. Suggest a challenge to get colleague excited about reducing plastic, eg. the person who uses the least plastic items by the end of the month wins a prize.
- Engage your local community
Connect with other people in your community who are passionate about zero waste. Organize a litter pick in public areas or plan a plastic-free event to inspire more people about plastic-free alternatives.
- Lobby your local council and leaders
Write to your local MP or councilperson asking with help addressing the issue of plastic waste in your community. Join a campaign to pressure government leaders to change the rules surrounding waste management.
Together we can build a better, plastic-free world in order to protect our precious oceans and all the life within.
Check out the Plastic Free July page for more ideas on how to get involved!