9 Nara Deer Found Dead After Eating Plastic in Sacred Japanese Sanctuary
The global plastic crisis has invaded a sacred sanctuary in Japan. Nine deer in Nara Park that have died since March were revealed to have massive amounts of plastic bags and food wrappers in their digestive tract.
Three of the nine deaths were attributed directly to digestive issues from eating the plastic, said Yoshitaka Ashimura, secretary general of the conservation group Nara Deer Preservation Foundation, as CNN reported. In one deer, researchers from the conservation group found 9.5 pounds of plastic in its digestive system, according to Newsweek.
In March, the group posted a photo of 7 pounds of plastic pulled from another deer's stomach.
Nara Park, just east of Osaka, is a Unesco World Heritage Sight and home to over 1,000 Sika deer, which have been classified as a national treasure and are, therefore, protected by law. Those legal protections have tamed the deer that roam the park freely without fear of predators. Visitors to the park are allowed to feed the deer with digestive and sugar-free deer crackers, known locally as shika sembei, which are sold in nearby shops and do not have plastic wrapping, according to Japan Today.
Yet, some visitors will feed the deer other treats, prompting local authorities to ask people to stop offering unauthorized snacks, as Newsweek reported.
The deer eat plastic after watching tourists take food out from bags and wrappers, said Rie Maruko, a veterinarian with the Nara Deer Preservation Foundation, as Japan Today reported. He added that the deer learn that bags contain food and they are tempted by the scents coming off discarded food packaging.
Deer are ruminants with a four-chambered stomach that allows them to digest grasses and derive their nutrition from it. When the first chamber fills with non-digestible items, like plastic, they are not able to regurgitate, digest or ingest new food. Unable to digest, the animal weakens and withers away until it finally dies.
"The deer that died were very skinny and I was able to feel their bones," Maruko said, according to Japan Today. "Please do not feed them anything other than the designated shika sembei."
The Nara Deer Preservation Foundation has upped its efforts to warn tourists about the dangers of bringing plastic bags and food wrappers into the park. Additionally, new signs posted in several languages this spring show people how to feed the deer, but they have not been effective in reducing plastic waste, said Ashimura, as CNN reported. The local government said it will take additional steps to protect the deer.
The conservation group launched a cleanup campaign on Wednesday. More than 100 volunteers collected over 116 pounds of trash around the park. Sixty percent of it was plastic.
"The amount of plastic garbage we collected was over our expectation," Ashimura said, as CNN reported. "We are concerned that a mere clean up won't solve the issue. It's important that the visitors won't throw them away to begin with to protect deer."
People Are So Annoying That Animals Are Becoming More Nocturnal. https://t.co/Ru9xfYTH2b— Enviro Voter Project (@Enviro_Voter) July 15, 2018
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Jean-Marc Neveu and Olivier Civil never expected to find themselves battling against disposable mask pollution.
When they founded their recycling start-up Plaxtil in 2017, it was textile waste they set their sights on. The project developed a process that turned fabrics into a new recyclable material they describe as "ecological plastic."
Mounting Piles of Waste<p>It is not only the streets of Chatellerault where pandemic pollution is piling-up, but also the world's beaches and oceans. Once there, they can take up to 450 years to degrade and disappear.</p><p>Esther Röling, co-organizer of the annual Adventure Clean Up Challenge held on Hong Kong Island, has seen this waste firsthand. In October the sports challenge pitted teams against one another in a competition to remove trash from 13 hard-to-reach coastal areas around the city.</p><p>They find tons of both disposable and reusable masks, said Röling. "You wonder how it ended up there. Was it just thrown on the ground? Or was it in a garbage bag that broke open?"</p><p>Almost 10,000 kilometers away in Antibes on the sunny French Riviera, it's a similar picture. For the past few months, divers and clean-up volunteers working with an ocean clean-up non-profit called Operation Mer Propre have been collecting an increasing number of masks found on land and in the sea.</p><p>"Since the beginning of the lockdown when we started to count, we've reached 800, 900, [and now in total] 1000 masks," said co-founder Joko Peltier. </p><p>According to <a href="https://unctad.org/news/growing-plastic-pollution-wake-covid-19-how-trade-policy-can-help" target="_blank">UN estimates</a>, up to 75% of all coronavirus-related plastic could end up as waste in oceans and landfills.</p>
The Limits of Recycling<p>Yet not all are convinced the recycling of this waste is possible on a global scale. </p><p>"What those citizen groups are doing is really beneficial but once they collect it, it should just go to a landfill or an incinerator. They shouldn't necessarily expect it to get recycled," said Jonathan Krones, an industrial ecologist and visiting assistant professor of environmental studies at Boston College.</p><p>That's because mask recycling programs like Plaxtil are few and far between and most don't have the benefit of a readily adaptable production process. </p><p>Even in countries with solid recycling infrastructure, he says, the system is designed to separate out specific types of waste like bottles or cardboard.</p><p>"I imagine that it would be technically feasible to develop a separation process to filter out masks, but there simply aren't enough of them to make that economical," he said.</p><p>Collection is a big hurdle, he adds. Since each mask only weighs a fraction of a gram and they're scattered on roads or mixed with other trash, it is difficult and costly. </p><p>"You need a lot of raw material of the right quality to make investing in the recycling technology and the recycling system worthwhile," he said.<span></span><br></p>
Hemp, Sugar Cane and Sustainable Alternatives<p>Some projects are instead addressing the material used to make masks.</p><p>French company Geochanvre have created a mask made primarily from hemp, while in Australia, researchers at the Queensland University of Technology are experimenting with a disposable product made from agricultural waste. </p><p>Biodegradable options are exciting alternatives to reduce the fossil fuels needed for the creation of plastic-based masks, said Krones, but they don't absolve the wearer from the responsibility of what happens afterwards. </p><p>Bio-based masks often need their own composing solutions, he explains, because in landfill they can produce high amounts of the greenhouse gas methane when anaerobic bacteria feeds on the organic material. Methane is known to be significantly more potent than carbon dioxide.</p><p>"I think as long as we have in our mind that we want to have disposability, we're going to have to wrestle with a variety of different sorts of environmental tradeoffs," he said, adding that reusable, fabric masks are the best option available to most people.</p><p>Precimask is developing a clear face covering with an optional visor made from hard plastic, designed to be long-lasting.<br></p><p>Air enters either side of the cheeks through a technology normally found in pool filters and car exhaust systems, said company spokeswoman Juliette Chambet.</p><p>"We wanted to make ceramic-based filters that would be washable and cleanable, which would allow them to be reused as many times as desired without having to buy a new consumable or produce waste," she said. </p><p>Ultimately, encouraging mask wearers to think about the entire lifecycle of a mask is key, explains Neveu. </p><p>"We want people who put on the masks to realize that they are also responsible for the waste, he said. "It's not inevitable that this [pandemic] will become an environmental catastrophe.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.dw.com/en/covid-19-recycling-pollution-trash-pandemic/a-55707817" target="_blank">Deutsche Welle</a>.</em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649032193#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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