The ducks in Amsterdam know what's up.
We were sitting on the edge of a canal and saw a duck, a coot actually.
She was dragging something that we identified as a plastic cup, the type typically used in beer pong. Because the cup kept filling up with water and becoming too heavy, she repeatedly dropped it and readjusted her beak grip. On the other side of the canal, there was a half-sunken boat covered by a tarp towards which this coot appeared to be heading. Our curiosity piqued, we crossed a bridge to investigate.
This is what we discovered
Do you see her in her nest? What a collection! Turns out she has been working for the the city of Amsterdam public works, cleaning up the canals. And she is not the only one. Other coots around the city built similar nests. In a more residential district, they used mostly twigs and organic materials but still managed to round up some reusable inorganic items (the white stuff). The babies were already up and cheeping.
Compare these nests to one coot's nest in Interlaken
All sticks. This is a testament to Interlaken's pristine subalpine environment. Not even enough plastic floating in the waters for a coot's nest.
I have mixed feelings about this discovery in Amsterdam. On one hand, I am saddened and appalled that we have created a world where it is easier for birds to find non-biodegradable material than twigs, leaves, and grasses. Another example of humans' careless overuse and disposal of human-made items in combination with our destruction of natural habitat. On the other hand, I was awed by the birds' resourcefulness. I am certainly not advocating that humans should not take responsibility for our "waste", but I am delighted that other creatures can put at least some of it to use. As long as they are not trying to eat it or feed it to their chicks... A likely possibility.
We are all doomed.