A black skimmer seabird feeding its young with a cigarette butt - Copyright Courtesy: Karen Mason

Walking along the Florida coastline, it is not unusual to see black skimmer seabirds feeding their young with small fish.

But when Karen Mason was walking along the shores of St Pete beach outside Tampa, Florida last month, she found a mother bird feeding her young not with a fish, crustacean or mollusc, but with a cigarette butt.

She snapped a photograph of the pair and posted it on Facebook along with the caption: “If you smoke, please don’t leave your butts behind.”

Mason added in another post: “It’s time we cleaned up our beaches and stopped treating them like one giant ashtray.”

Cigarette butts are the world’s biggest plastic pollutant, with some six trillion butts polluting the Earth each year.

The filters in cigarettes are particularly harmful. A majority of these filters are composed of a plastic called cellulose acetate, which can take anywhere between 10-15 years to fully decompose.

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