It's sad to witness photos of emaciated polar bears, as more and more of them appear in press releases and research studies. They're leaving the Arctic and entering human settlements in Russia. causing environmental authorities to set off emergency alarms. This awakening is all the more concerning as polar bears — who have fewer and fewer prey options —resort to diets of plastic.
Hundred of miles from original habitat
In cities like Norllsk in Russia, starving and exhausted polar bears have been located hundred of miles from their natural habitat, .
In February, 2019, a state emergency was declared as dozens of polar bears entered other towns in Russia's Artic region. Footage from the Novaya Zemlya archipelago captured these bears roaming through buildings and other infrastructure.
Unable to hunt as they did in the past, they are forced to journey inland to seek alternative prey, as well as scavenge for other scraps from garbage disposal areas. Unfortunately these alternatives consist of an excessive amount of plastic.
25% Plastic Ingested
Plastic is now an integral component of their diet, according to a report by the World Atlas. To date, scientists have studied polar bear excrement after they have rummaged garbage dumps. They concluded:
“When polar bears visit landfills, up to 25% of their stomach and excrement contents is made up of various plastic waste: bags, wrappers, etc.,” Ivan Mizin, deputy director of the Russian Arctic national park, told Interfax.
Mizin also cautioned that bears will begin to start dying, if plastic levels in their diet exceed a certain threshold level. And unfortunately, it is not just the bears, as other Arctic species like marine mammals and birds have also been adversely impacted by plastics injestion.
How to Address Crisis
In an interview for The Verge, Anatoly Kochnev and his scientific study suggested:
“You need to destroy everything that attracts polar bears. That’s what the town of Churchill in Manitoba, Canada, did. Churchill is a popular polar bear stomping ground, and in the mid-2000s, the town closed the local dump and shut the trash away in a warehouse that became known as the Alcatraz of garbage."
Earlier in 2019. the Arctic Council, an intergovernmental forum, identified plastic pollution as one of its top issues to address over the next two years.
“We place a strong emphasis on efforts to improve stewardship of plastic waste and thus reduce the input of plastics into the Arctic Marine Environment,” said Gudlaugur Thor Thordarson, Iceland’s Foreign Minister and current chair of the Arctic Council.
“We hope that by the end of the Icelandic Chairmanship of the Arctic Council in May 2021, we will have adopted an ambitious regional plan of action on marine litter and plastics in the Arctic.”
Seabin is an ingenious new start-up that invented “floating trash cans,” which aim to vacuum plastic waste away from places, such as harbors, marinas and yacht clubs, where plastic tends to accumulate before being swept out into the open ocean. However, it is more important than ever that all of us make an effort to reduce our own personal plastic footprint.
For additional tips on how to go about doing this, please read the following articles:
- 10 Simple Actions That Just Might Save Our World’s Oceans From Plastic
- 5 Simple Go-To Tips to Shrink Your Plastic Footprint
- 10 Life Hacks to Help You Cut Plastic Out of the Picture
Hopefully, the Arctic nations’ model that leads by example will help build credibility and inspire other organizations to prevent the Arctic from becoming a global trash bin, and start saving more and more polar bears from these threats.
Primary Source: World Atlas