Sperm whales in happier times.
Sperm whales in happier times.

Recently, the city of Almeria in arid southern Spain has transformed itself into prime farmland by building more than 150 square miles of plastic-sheeting-encased greenhouses. That means there’s more out-of-season, non-native foods for local Spaniards — and more out-of-season, non-native plastic foods for local Spaniard sea creatures.

Only about 1,000 sperm whales live in the Mediterranean sea. When one recently beached itself and died on the coast, scientists determined the cause quickly. (Any guesses?)

“[I]t had a real greenhouse inside its stomach. We did not expect it, but it did not surprise us,” marine biologist Renaud de Stephanis told Agence France-Presse. “It was as if it had a rock inside its intestine, nothing could get through. There was so much plastic that it finally exploded.”

When it died, the whale had eaten about 37 pounds of plastic, including a lot of the plastic sheeting from those greenhouses, two flower pots, an ice cream tub, and some mattress chunks.

“These animals feed in waters near an area completely flooded by the greenhouse industry,” Stephanis told The Guardian. Stephanis doesn’t describe exactly how Almeria’s tons of plastic end up in the sea, but the guy is clearly mad, and can you blame him? (Answer: No, no you can’t.)

Spain has a pretty decent amount of land available for farming, but a lot of it is full of poor quality soil or is vulnerable to land erosion. Greenhouses seem like a good solution — grow that stuff locally and in dense controlled environments — but only if they don’t actually contribute to the greater problem. More sea-bound plastic equals more dead whales equals more out-of-whack ecosystems equals more need to grow our food inside plastic houses, because we’ve destroyed everything outside of them.

Even if you’re not in for saving the whales, consider, fish-eaters: Your dinner was likely eating a fair bit of that plastic, too (if not the whole ice cream tub).

The circle of life, bitches. Happy Friday.