Our dirty litter habits aren’t only leaving our streets and parks an eyesore – discarded plastic is killing our wildlife too.
Last year, RSPCA officers rescued almost 600 animals injured when they got entangled or hurt by dumped plastic and cases are on the rise.
Heartbreaking pictures released by the animal welfare charity showed a plastic green frisbee cutting into a seal’s neck and a dead pond duck with a thick plastic cable tie wedged from its beak to its neck.
Despite reusable coffee cups and water bottles becoming more mainstream, the latest figures show the cruel and dangerous consequences of our plastic addiction.
There has been an alarming rise in reported cases of wildlife being injured by plastic litter, with officers responding to 579 incidents in 2018 – compared to 473 the year before.
This bucks the downward trend for all types of litter, from 4,968 in 2015 to 4,579 in 2018.
RSPCA Head of Wildlife, Adam Grogan said: “This shocking rise in plastic litter incidents suggests that plastic is a growing threat to animals.
“Every year, the RSPCA deals with increasing numbers of mammals, birds and reptiles that have become entangled or affected in some way by discarded plastic.
“From seals with deep infected wounds caused by plastic frisbees cutting into their necks, to swans and geese trapped in fishing line or netting, plastic is clearly having an increasing impact on animal welfare.
“Our latest data sadly reflects the wider litter crisis taking place right now across the globe and action is urgently needed.
“It’s up to every one of us to do our bit in the war against litter.”
Last year in London alone, 172 animals were rescued after getting caught in litter or swallowing something destined for the bin – 68 of which were caused by plastic.
From 2015 to 2018, a shocking 799 concerned members of the public in the capital rang the RSPCA after spotting an injured animal caught up in litter.
But the highest number of incidents was in the east of England, including Cambridgeshire, Essex and Norfolk, where 182 animals were injured by dumped litter.
According to the charity, animals who live in and around water are more vulnerable to dying because of our dirty habits.
Out of the 4,579 incidents last year, a shocking 3,228 were from angling litter.
There has been a fourfold rise in seals injured by plastic litter with 28 recorded in 2018, compared to just five three years earlier.
During the same period, the number of injured geese increased from 37 to 70 and swans from 40 to 48.
By Isabel Dobinson