Beach Junk Threatening Environment, Wildlife

Thursday, February 08, 2007

You could soon be paying a premium on plastic -- everything from straws to potato chip bags to soda caps. Today the Ocean Protection Council urged legislators to include plastic under the California Redemption Value program that now includes glass and cans. They want to address marine debris -- debris that's often deadly.

California's coastlines are inundated with trash. Up to 80 percent is plastic according to the state's Ocean Protection Council. Today they set forth a resolution designed to prompt public debate. They want to include more plastic items under California's CRV or Redemption Value program. Consumers would pay extra for the plastic that is clogging the ocean.

Jay Holcomb, International Bird Rescue Research Center: "These actually came out of the nests or out of the bodies of the skeletons of dead baby birds."

This scientist picked up these plastic pieces on a trip to Midway Atoll, beyond the Hawaiian Islands, where currents from North America and Asia converge.

Jay Holcomb, International Bird Rescue Research Center: "The shocking thing that we found and that other people have found going to this pristine environment with literally millions of seabirds nesting is all the plastic that's there."

Albatrosses mistake floating disposable lighters and colorful plastics as squid. They swoop in and gulp them down, eventually regurgitating the plastic pieces to feed their babies.

Jay Holcomb, International Bird Rescue Research Center: "The actual babies will die. When we found their bodies there's a skeleton with a big pile of plastic in its stomach. So it's commonly known that these plastics are killing these birds unintentionally."

The biggest problem locally along the coastline, the Delta and small ponds is mono-filament fishing line. Birds and marine animals get tangled up in this material and either strangle or injure themselves."

Like this black crowned night heron. Once its wings got tangled in fishing line, the feathers broke off. It's scheduled for surgery next week. Fishing line might be one of the items targeted for the CRV expansion proposed today.

The executive policy officer for the Ocean Protection Council also told ABC7 News: "The top priority is to look at alternatives to plastic that are made from starches to produce non-conventional plastics that more readily biodegrade."

Environmentalists say the focus on plastic might encourage the public to take more responsibility.

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