“One bag can kill more than once: Carcasses decay, but plastic lasts and can choke or trap again.” If there was ever a single photograph to illustrate the damage we are inflicting on our planet, it’s the stork wearing a plastic bag in the image above. Photographer John Cancalosi freed the seabird from a plastic bag at a landfill in Spain.

National Geographic’s “Planet or Plastic?” campaign give the data a poignant voice, putting the spotlight on a huge problem we must act on. Here are some shocking images that inspire change: 

NatGeo Sea Turtle in Net

Studies suggest that 90% of seabirds have plastic debris in their bodies. Not surprising, when 18 billion pounds of plastic enter the ocean each year.

NatGeo Plastic Hermit Crab

On Okinawa, Japan, a hermit crab resorts to a plastic bottle cap to protect its soft abdomen.

Many of us are aware of the data, yet we continue buying plastics thinking we can recycle them. Yet only a few types of plastic can be recycled. And instead end up in garbage dumps, then eventually in our wildlife.

NatGeo Hyenas Plastic Wildlife

Hyenas scavenging at a landfill in Harar, Ethiopia.

Many cities and even countries have started to phase out plastics, starting with bans on plastic bags in supermarkets. India has pledged to eliminate single-use plastics by 2020.  

> Watch Jeff Bridges: “We are living in a plastic society”

But we can act faster than governments. Simply by stopping the use of disposable items like cotton buds, soft drink bottles, wet wipes and plastic bags. There are many alternatives out there that substitute plastic for fully biodegradable materials.

In the end, it’s up to each and every one of us to think twice about what we buy and use in and out of our homes. Let us all take a moment to consider which is more important: our planet, or plastic?

 

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