Plastics: the marvellous material of the last 50 years that has revolutionised packaging, disposable products and now 3D printing. Of course part of this appeal is plastic provides an affordable, durable and easily manipulated material. However, this durability has long been recognised as an environmental issue: most plastics do not degrade rapidly. Walk along any beach, forest trail or path and you will no doubt see something made of plastic. Well new research suggests the problem is even worse. The vast oceans, long seen as a bottomless pit for the disposal of human waste now contain so much plastic that by 2050 almost every species of seabird will be ingesting plastic waste. Plastic ingestion leads to disruption in feeding, internal injuries and death, which is never good for an individual animal. Especially if that individual is part of an endangered species.
Plastic pollution in the ocean is a rapidly emerging global environmental concern, with high concentrations (up to 580,000 pieces per km2) and a global distribution, driven by exponentially increasing production. Seabirds are particularly vulnerable to this type of pollution and are widely observed to ingest floating plastic. We used a mixture of literature surveys, oceanographic modeling, and ecological models to predict the risk of plastic ingestion to 186 seabird species globally. Impacts are greatest at the southern boundary of the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic Oceans, a region thought to be relatively pristine. Although evidence of population level impacts from plastic pollution is still emerging, our results suggest that this threat is geographically widespread, pervasive, and rapidly increasing.