We’ve all walked past litter on the ground before, but have you ever thought about the many ways that a seemingly harmless piece of litter could hurt an animal?
1. It stops them moving about
You’ve probably seen photos of animals with plastic rings around their necks or string tangled around their legs, it’s a common problem. When animals get caught like this though, it can stop them from doing all the things they need to do to survive like walking, flying, eating or escaping predators. If it is tangled around their necks or covering their face it can even stop them breathing and cause them to suffocate.
2. It causes injuries
As well as stopping animals from moving, litter can cut into the skin and rub away over time causing painful wounds that get worse the more they struggle and try to free themselves. This not only causes animals stress but also leaves them open to infection and death.
3. It can hurt the next generation
If you look closely at a birds nest, there is a good chance you will see some litter mixed in with the natural material. This puts young birds at risk of injury and harm before they have even left their nest.
4. Fills their tummy
While it may be easy for us to tell what is food and what is plastic or litter, it’s not for animals. Eating litter fills their stomachs with stuff they cannot digest and stops them from eating the proper food they need to survive. They suffer many health issues because of a lack of the right food and many die.
5. It introduces toxins to the foodchain
What starts life as a big bit of plastic eventually breaks down into tiny pieces, known as microplastics. These are so small they get everywhere, including the stomachs of animals right at the bottom of the food web. As plastics break down they release harmful toxins which build up in the bodies of the animals that eat them. Then, when they get eaten, they pass on their toxins to other animals higher up in the food chain.
Always put it in the bin
One of the best things we can do to help is cut down on the amount of waste we produce. If everyone used less plastic, there would be less to get rid of. However, there will always be some. So, always put it in the bin, recycling if possible, and never leave it lying around for animals to find.
If you walk past litter, why not think about picking it up and putting it in the next bin? Remember to be careful though and use a proper grabber or, at the very least, gloves to protect yourself.