A charity in India made a startling discovery. After taking in 36 stray cows, one died and they discovered the cause – the cow ate too much plastic.

In an effort to save the rest of the cattle, the charity surgically removed plastic from each cow’s stomach. Now, the charity, Karuna Society for Animals and Nature, is using the evidence to encourage everyone from local officials to the Supreme Court to ban plastic garbage.

How cows ingest plastic

In rural parts of India, cows roam the streets looking for food. The country’s waste management system is extremely lacking, which means many streets and alleys are littered with garbage.

Farmers can’t afford to feed their cows so they’re often let loose to find the nutrients they need on the streets. As cows pick through piles of garbage, hunting for leftovers, they also consume plastic. Unsurprisingly, the biggest plastic pollutant digested by cows is plastic bags.

The bits of plastic consumed build up in their internal organs, which make it difficult for cows to eat. As a result, milk production drops as does milk quality. Over time, the plastic consumption “sentences cattle to a slow and cruel death,” according to animal activists.

There are treatments to prevent death, but once milk production drops, farmers usually abandon cows rather than spend money on treatment.

The Supreme Court calls for action

The Supreme Court says the death of cattle from plastic consumption is “alarming” and has called on all local governments to take action. To curb plastic bag pollution, the court suggests fining residents and businesses that don’t dispose of waste properly.

Plastic bag bans aren’t uncommon. Several states in the U.S. have banned plastic bags or charge shoppers a tax to use one.

In India, the plastic bag ban sounds like a step in the right direction, but several cities already have a plastic bag ban in place but don’t have the resources to enforce it.

Without enforcement, garbage continues to cover the streets and becomes a main source of food – and cause of death – for roaming cattle.

A zero waste solution

While India’s pollution problems are unique, it’s not the only country struggling to mange waste.

Even the U.S. faces problems. The country only recycles about 34% of its waste, sending the rest to landfills.

To curb plastic pollution, a zero waste strategy is the best solution. How can you as a consumer commit to zero waste? By using refill technology consumers can eliminate massive amounts of single-use plastic from their daily life.

Here’s how it works: Consumers take a refillable bottle to a retailer and use a small kiosk to fill the bottle with whatever product they need.

Let’s say you’re out of laundry detergent. Simply take the bottle to a retailer, put it in a refill station and the machine washes the bottle, fills it with detergent and seals it. When it’s empty, just bring it back and refill it again.

If you’re ready to see refill stations at your local retailer, and want to commit to a zero waste solution, sign the petition below to send a clear message: #WeWantRefill.