Wildlife activists have applauded a subtle but significant change to Woolworths' milk bottles, which has been implemented to benefit the supermarket's recycling program, but will also have a positive impact on Australian native birdlife.
The retail giant will move to replace the standard blue bottle cap on its milk containers, that have been in place for decades, and instead opt for a clear one instead. Woolworths said the change is about better recycling outcomes as the pigment in coloured plastic limits how it can be reused.
Woolies' latest move an accidental win for wildlife
Clear plastic lids can be turned back into clear or coloured plastic, where as coloured plastic can only be remade into dark plastic. Aussie animal experts say it'll also make a huge impact when it comes to certain species of birds, who have a fascination with all things blue. The satin bowerbird, common along Australia's east coast, is the main one.
The males are on a permanent mission for treasures of the right hue, which they use to decorate their bowers and impress the ladies. That would formerly mean rare blue flowers and the like, but with the Australian landscape now littered with rubbish it now means lots of plastic and frequently the blue lids and rings that seal bottles of fresh milk.
When birds grasp the rings, they tend to flip backwards over their heads and become stuck, leaving them to die from starvation and thirst. The wildlife rescue group WIRES, BirdLife Australia and WWF-Australia have applauded a move by Woolworths to move to clear tops and rings, and want other grocery chains and branded milk producers to follow suit.
Bird activists applaud change
"I've seen photos of bower birds with these things flipped over their necks and they're pretty awful," WIRES spokesman John Grant said. "The bird picks them up and they immediately flip backwards and get stuck between their beak and their neck, and it can't flip it back again."
By ditching the blue, the lids and rings will no longer attract the interest of the picky treasure hunters.
Coles says it's yet to change the colour of its lids but is looking at options to ensure own-brand bottles are as recyclable as possible.
Image shows danger of milk tops to wildlife
Last year, Yahoo News reported on the devastating impact the blue lids can have on the satin bowerbird, with a heartbreaking photo revealing the extent.
A NSW man found the native animal in his backyard with the plastic ring stuck in its mouth and around its head. It's likely the bird was out scavenging for blue objects to take back to its bower when, somehow, it became entangled.
"A reminder to cut milk bottle cap rings, or leave them in the bottle with the cap on, so they can’t strangle our wildlife," the Kiama local wrote on Facebook. Dozens agreed it was "so sad" and incredibly "tragic" what had happened, especially because it was avoidable.
Sadly, "it happens frequently" many pointed out, and ring-shaped objects disposed of incorrectly are a major problem facing Aussie wildlife, Megan Fabian from the Australia Wildlife Society told Yahoo News Australia, with thousands of birds being strangled by them each year.
"Taking small actions at home, such as snipping through the ring-shaped items before disposing of them, can make a difference," Megan said. "All you need to do is snip the ring shapes in half, put it in the bottle, put the cap back on, and then you can put it in your recycling bin."
Loose lids disposed of separately are too small for most plastic recycling equipment.
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