How littering affects wildlife

 We receive more than 5,000 calls a year regarding litter and unfortunately, wildlife is the main victim when it people’s rubbish - wild birds in particular.

Black-headed gull on beach with litter © Andrew Forsyth/RSPCA Photolibrary

On average we receive 14 calls a day about animals affected by litter and these types of calls spike particularly high in the summer months.

Even so, as pet owners go directly to vets, and many injured wild animals are never found, it’s estimated that the actual figure of animals injured by litter is much higher than we currently know. The wildlife is suffering, and they really need our help.

Report an injured wild animal today

How can litter be dangerous to wildlife?

Everyday objects that seem perfectly safe, can sadly become hazardous when found accidentally by animals. By disposing our rubbish safely instead of littering we are making choices that could save many lives. Plus, protecting animals from harmful rubbish is easy – we can choose to dispose of our rubbish responsibly by recycling, reusing or simply putting it in the bin!


While a nice touch at a party, many animals can actually try to eat balloons and then choke or become impacted by disregarded decorations. You can help protect animals by cutting up balloons before putting them safely into your bin. It’s really that simple! Oh, and balloon releases are also very threatening to wildlife, always deflate and bin once the party’s over.

Sadly even balloons marked as degradable may take a number of weeks to degrade yet it only takes a second for an animal to swallow a balloon.

Read more about Balloon releases (PDF 518KB).

Chinese lanterns

Chinese lanterns, also known as sky lanterns, can also seriously injure animals through ingestion, entanglement and entrapment. Why not read more about Chinese lanterns and the environmentally-friendly alternatives

Containers and cans

Animals looking for food can get trapped in cans or injured by sharp edges. To help prevent harm to animals, clean and empty containers after use and pinch cans shut or cut containers in half before recycling whenever possible.

Elastic bands

Elastic bands, although seemingly harmless can in fact wrap around small animals and the beaks of birds. If swallowed they can also cause choking. By reusing bands where possible or cutting them open before putting in a bin, you can really help prevent harm to animals.

Fishing tackle

Fishing litter is responsible for the injury of thousands of wild animals every year with animals getting entangled in line and hooks which can pierce skin or be swallowed. By fishing responsibly, you can avoid accidental harm to the local wildlife and environment.

Our top tips for anglers and how to promote responsible fishing.


Broken glass can also cause serious injury and animals can sometimes get trapped in jars. Be sure to clean and recycle glass to help prevent injuries and avoid unnecessary harm.

Plastic bags

Animals can climb inside plastic bags and suffocate, or attempt to eat them and choke. Simply tying a knot in the top of plastic bags before recycling can help prevent deaths.

Plastic can holders

Animals can also get entangled in plastic can holders, and suffer deep wounds or even choke. Help prevent suffering by always cutting the loops before recycling.

How you can help wildlife by fighting the litter crisis

The smallest changes can have big effects on small animals. To clean up the environment and save animals today, why not organise a litter collection in your area? You can even join events to fight litter on a bigger scale!

Why not pre-register for the 2019 Big British Spring Clean and help keep Britain tidy?

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