This article originally appeared on VICE Asia
Most must know by now that we have a global waste problem. This harsh reality is illustrated in the various viral photos of plastic discovered inside dead animals around the world. The latest example of this is a wild deer in Thailand found with 7 kilograms of plastic inside its stomach on Monday.
While investigations are still ongoing, the deer was suspected to have died after pieces of plastic blocked its alimentary canal, the part of the stomach where food passes, the BBC reported.
“We believed it had been eating those plastics for a long time before it died," Kriangsak Thanompun, a director at the National Park, Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department told the BBC.
Among the waste found in the 10-year-old male deer’s stomach were items like rubber gloves, a small towel, garbage bags, instant noodle packets, and even underwear. It was found by an officer on patrol in Khun Sathan National Park in the northern district of Na Noi, 630 kilometres away from Bangkok.
According to Greenpeace, Thailand is one of the world’s biggest consumers of plastic bags, with around 75 billion pieces of plastic bags disposed of yearly.
It is estimated that each person in Thailand, on average, uses 3,000 of single-use plastic bags per year. The country ranks sixth in a list of worst offenders when it comes to dumping plastic into the sea, according to a study by Siam Commercial Bank's Economic Intelligence Center.
The deer’s death comes just months after a rescued baby Dugong named Mariam captured the hearts of Thai netizens, only to die due to complications related to plastic in its stomach.
The Thai government is now working towards solving the plastic problem. As part of this initiative, some of the country's biggest retailers and department stores have vowed to stop using plastic bags by next year. The government also plans to ban four types of single-use plastics — lightweight plastic bags, styrofoam food containers, plastic cups, and plastic straws — by 2022.
Policies like these have been a long time coming. On Wednesday, a commentary published by a group of scientific researchers in the journal Nature warned that more than half of the earth’s environmental systems are now undergoing irreversible negative changes. According to the commentary, once tipping points in the earth system (E.g. Loss of Amazon rainforest) cross this point, there is no way of going back. This will cause immeasurable damage to ecosystems and create a "hothouse effect," rendering some parts of the world uninhabitable.
It may seem unlikely that the lid on your coffee cup is related to the accelerated loss of arctic ice sheets, but research points to exactly that. According to a study conducted by the Center for International Environmental Law, from the start of production to disposal, the entire life cycle of disposable plastics contribute to greenhouse gas emissions.
From chemicals released during its productions, to improper disposal, yearly carbon dioxide emissions could grow to upwards of 2.75 billion tonnes by 2050.
If we think preserving the lives of sea turtles, baby Dugong, or wild deer, aren’t enough of an incentive to change our habits as consumers, and demand corporations, policymakers, and governments to be held accountable, then maybe an environmental collapse on a planetary scale might.
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