“Devastating” Photo Shows Mother Bird Feeding Her Chick a Cigarette Butt

Cigarette butts, not straws, are the #1 source of plastic pollution in the ocean, according to a new report

Walking along the beach, a Florida woman snapped a photo of a “devastating” sight — a mother bird feeding a cigarette butt to her baby.

Since she posted it on Facebook, the photo is being published by media outlets around the world, and the baby bird is quickly becoming a “poster child for change.”

The black skimmer probably mistook the cigarette for a small fish says photographer Karen “Catbird” Mason, who normally takes photos of the birds feeding their babies fish.

The birds feed by skimming along the water with their beaks open, she explained.  “They don’t see what they are getting. This parent must have latched on to a butt in the shallow water,” she wrote.

Cigarette butts were the most common type of trash collected from beaches around the world, according to a recent report by the Ocean Conservancy.

There’s a common misconception that cigarette butts are harmless, biodegradable bits of paper, when the filters are actually made of a type of plastic called cellulose acetate, that never fully biodegrades.

“The white fibers you see in a cigarette filter are NOT cotton, but a plastic that can persist in the environment as long as other forms of plastic,” say researchers at Longwood University in Virginia.

About two-thirds of the 5 trillion cigarettes produced each year are improperly disposed of, according to Cigarette Butt Pollution Project.

In addition to plastic pollution, the filters add hundreds of toxic chemicals to waterways.

A simple solution for smokers is to carry a little metal tin in their pockets or purses to store butts until they can be properly disposed of.


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