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Mallard struggling with plastic trash in Oakland Lake, Queens. Photo by Cathy St. Pierre.

Environmentalists are now aware of Earth’s oceanic gyres of garbage, most famously the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Locally, the NYC Department of Environmental Protection has warned us through subway ad campaigns that trash we toss on the street will wait for us at the beach. But for many people the ways in which plastics cause suffering and ecological damage (including wreaking havoc with hormones in many species) remain abstract.

Queens resident Cathy St. Pierre recently photographed this afflicted mallard in Oakland Lake. Being so encumbered endangers the bird, physically hurts it, interferes with mating and feeding, and leaves it more vulnerable to dangers by inhibiting escape. Cathy told the Bayside, NY Patch (unrelated to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch) that she couldn’t get near enough to the shy bird to free it. One of the most energetic Queens blogs subsequently picked the story up, so perhaps there will be more sitings and, we hope, a possible rescue.

Animals who aren’t able to free themselves can often be killed or maimed by plastic trash.

If you find wildlife in trouble, please contact your local Wildlife Rehabilitator in New York, New Jersey, or Connecticut.

If you’d like to help remove plastic trash from habitats with beach and trail cleanups, please volunteer with the American Littoral Society or the American Hiking Society.

Of course, the best approach is prevention. Use much less plastic, reuse or recycle what you must (or opt for biodegradable plastics when that’s not greenwashing), demand that your favorite manufacturers use less plastic, lobby elected officials and government agencies to restrict plastic use, and have the courage to confront litterbugs (or the charity to clean up after them). ┬áIt’s also vital that New York City and other municipalities upgrade sewer systems to handle storm runoffs (also kn0wn in New York City as “combined sewage overflows“) so that street litter, let alone untreated waste, isn’t washed into our waterways.

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