Sunday, January 20, 2019

What does plastic in the ocean have to do with companion animals?

marine plastics, microplastics, One Welfare, ocean health, dogs
Bosca models the AniPal collar, made from recycled plastics (NB harness is not related).

What does plastic in the ocean have to do with companion animals? Quite a bit, actually. According to the World Economic Forum, by 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish (although there are a coupleof key steps we can take to slow this down) That will destroy the ocean we enjoy, impacting aquatic and terrestrial environments. It will also remove one of the world’s major food sources. 

Microplastics ingested by fish have already made their way into the food chain, the consequences of which we don’t fully understand.
Veterinarian Stephanie Stubbe was horrified by these figures, and spent over twelve months setting up her own company to repurpose plastic ocean waste, converting this into dog collars and leads which are now available in Australia.

I learned about Dr Stubbe when colleagues began sharing an ABC news article about a young vet who had decided to tackle something many of us think is too hard. We later spoke when I was writing an article about the animal welfare impacts of plastic in the ocean.

microplastic, marine plastic, One Welfare, dogs
Bosca models his recycled plastic collar (harness not related).

We tend to think about companion animals as living in homes, protected from the wider environment. But as we deplete and damage our environments, we need to appreciate that they, like us, are part of a bigger picture and animal welfare, human wellbeing and environmental sustainability are interdependent. 

And thinking about reducing the “plastic footprint” of pets might challenge some of us to think about our own plastic footprint. We can also reduce that of others by participating in initiatives like Take 3 (a campaign that encourages people to take home at least three bits of litter every time they hit the beach).

Initiatives like this are based on the premise that small choices we make in our everyday lives have the power, collectively, to make a difference. It will be interesting to see what other initiatives animal health professionals develop to tackle these wicked problems.

You can follow Dr Stubbe on Instagram or facebook

Declaration: The collar modeled was purchased from AniPal and this is not a paid post, not has it been reviewed or endorsed by AniPal.