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Wildlife have had a gutful of plastic bags

Date: 03-May-09
Author: Michelle Cook

Bryde's whale dying with 6 square metres of plastic in its stomach (photo courtesy of The Cairns Post) © Cairns Post

Bryde's whale dying with 6 square metres of plastic in its stomach (photo courtesy of The Cairns Post)

“South Australia will lead the nation in banning plastic checkout bags starting on Monday (May 4),” says Anne-Marie Byrne of Planet Ark, “ This is a very positive step. Other States can show their commitment to our environment and wildlife by following the South Australian lead.”

It is estimated that 100,000 marine creatures die each year from plastic pollution. “We have footage of a Bryde’s whale dying.  It is a shocking thing to witness.  The autopsy found that the whale’s stomach was tightly packed with six square metres of plastic, including plastic checkout bags. The distressed animal died in severe pain,” says Ms Byrne.

Marine Biologist Dr. Kathy Townsend from Moreton Bay Research Station, The University of QLD, confirms that approximately 40% of the turtles she autopsies have plastics, including plastic bags, in their intestinal tract. “The turtles appear to mistake floating plastic bags for jelly fish.” says Dr. Townsend, “The less plastics entering the environment where they can harm wildlife, the better.”

Planet Ark is launching an on-line petition to send to the May 22nd meeting of the Environment Protection and Heritage Council, where all Federal and State Environment Ministers meet. Planet Ark is calling for support from the Australian public to “Kill off Plastic Bags, not Wildlife”.

“As pioneers of the plastic bag reduction movement, Planet Ark applauds the South Australian Government’s legislation to crack down on this insidious nuisance,” said Ms Byrne “The South Australian ban will see 400 million fewer plastic checkout bags entering waste and litter streams. But Australians still use 10 million plastic bags a day.”

“Government, business and the public need to work together and take responsibility for the environment if we are to build a more sustainable future for Australia. Every time we go shopping, we can see the effort consumer and retailers are making by switching to reusable bags. These, and other measures, have seen annual consumption of plastic bags fall from 6 billion to 4 billion since our campaign began in 2002. That is a fantastic voluntary effort.”

“Now we need a final push to get other State Governments to act. Go to http://plasticbags.planetark.org/petition/ and make your voice heard,” said Ms Byrne.

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