The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) has reported that animals are being injured or killed by litter. David Holgate, a representative from the charity, organised a clean-up of the River Calder in Wakefield after he saw a goose tangled in fishing line. He was "shocked at the amount of rubbish on this stretch of the river" and launched a litter pick.
In the past three years, the RSPCA has received almost 10,500 reports of animals hurt by litter. These incidents include a fox with its head stuck in a plastic bottle. Almost half of the incidents reported in 2022 involved animals caught in fishing litter. The charity is also concerned about the danger posed by discarded vapes, which contain poisonous substances.
According to Mr Holgate, litter "is one of the biggest and most frustrating hazards facing our wildlife today". As we approach the warmer months, people will be spending more time outside, which could exacerbate the problem. The RSPCA is calling on the public, including those in West Yorkshire, to help keep their communities clean. Mr Holgate explained that "It'll also be a time where we see more baby wildlife starting to be born, and young animals are particularly at risk from carelessly discarded litter."
On 21 March, a team of seven volunteers collected 25 sacks of litter at Thornes Lane Wharf and a further 14 bags at Pugneys Country Park. The RSPCA is urging people not to litter and to help clean up discarded rubbish in their community.
Litter not only causes harm to wildlife but also has detrimental effects on the environment. For example, plastic bags and bottles can take hundreds of years to decompose, while cigarette butts release toxic chemicals that can contaminate soil and water sources. Additionally, litter can be a danger to humans as well. Broken glass, needles, and other hazardous materials can cause injury to people and pets.
To prevent littering, individuals should be mindful of their waste and dispose of it properly. This means using recycling bins and trash cans, rather than throwing garbage on the ground or in waterways. Governments and organisations can also take action by implementing policies that discourage littering and promoting initiatives such as beach and park cleanups.
It is essential to remember that small actions can make a big difference. As Mr Holgate emphasised, "every little helps when it comes to keeping our wildlife and environment safe."