An amateur photographer has captured an image of a young pup lounging next to a glass Starbucks bottle in the midst of the UK grey pup season in what some say highlights the pervasiveness of human rubbish problems around the world.
Donna Nook is one of more than almost 100 nature preserves managed by the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust. It is home to more than 4,000 individual grey seals, including this pup captured by UK-based photographer Dan Thurling and posted to Facebook on November 21.
"I was out for a walk at the local nature reserve to see the seals coming in for their annual breeding season," Thurling told IFLScience. "They only arrive on the Lincolnshire coastline for approximately 2.5 months of the year."
Females in the eastern Atlantic give birth to pups from September to November, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Though grey seals are classified as a species of least concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, populations are threatened by pollution.
IFLScience spoke with Jory Mendes, Starbucks senior manager of Corporate Communications, over the phone who said that the company is “deeply saddened by the image.”
“Reducing waste by increasing recycling and encouraging reuse is something we are passionate about at Starbucks. We are speaking to the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust (LWT) and are hopeful we can support Donna Nook in tackling some of the waste management issues at the reserve,” added Mendes. Starbucks says it is currently in “conversations” with LWT about possible ways to mitigate rubbish issues.
The photo is making waves just days after a whale washed up dead on a Scottish island with its belly filled with a variety of human trash, including plastic bags, ropes, and fishing nets. Both images highlight a growing concern for pollution entering the world’s waterways, with everything from brain-harming toxic chemicals to millions of microplastics found in nearly every corner of the planet. In response, many companies and governments around the world have made promises to use more sustainable products. Starbucks announced last year that it plans to eliminate single-use plastic straws in more than 28,000 stores by 2020 and replace them with recyclable lids or straws made from alternative materials. Recently, California outlawed single-use plastic toiletry items in hotels and Scotland banned plastic cotton buds. Even so, billions of pounds of trash and other pollution enters the ocean each year.