A bleak study published Monday in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences claims, by 2050, 99 percent of all seabird species will ingest plastic debris.
The study, carried out by researchers from Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization and Imperial College London, was headed up by Dr. Chris Wilcox.
These findings are especially troubling as this problem affected less than 5 percent of all seabirds in 1960.
The scientists also think as many as 90 percent of seabird species today already ingested plastic at one point in their lives.
Dr. Wilcox believes this is a landmark study. In a statement to Eurek Alert!, Wilcox said,
For the first time, we have a global prediction of how wide-reaching plastic impacts may be on marine species. The results are striking... This is a huge amount and really points to the ubiquity of plastic pollution.
According to researchers, birds frequently mistake the plastic litter for food and eat it. When a bird swallows plastic materials, like bottle caps, bags and plastic fibers from synthetic clothes, the trash can lead to the bird experiencing gut impaction, weight loss and, eventually, even death.
Study coauthor Dr. Britta Denise Hardesty claimed she pulled almost 200 pieces of plastic from one bird.
She also said,
Even simple measures can make a difference. Efforts to reduce plastics losses into the environment in Europe resulted in measureable changes in plastic in seabird stomachs with less than a decade, which suggests that improvements in basic waste management can reduce plastic in the environment in a really short time.
There is hope and a solution out there. Hopefully, change comes to this awful problem sooner rather than later.