HOW LITTER IS EFFECTING OUR LOCAL WILDLIFE

Litter is everywhere, you only have to walk outside your front door to see it.

Now our waste is making its way into the natural environment through rivers, streams, grass verges and woodland areas.

We’ve seen numerous images and footage of sea life being effected overseas but how is our local wildlife fairing?

Examples of litter collected in and around Faverdale and West Park, Darlington

 

It comes at a time when statistics from the RSPCA show plastic litter incidents effecting wildlife are at an all-time high.

Plastic litter contributed to 579 cases of damage to wildlife or pets reported to the animal charity in England and Wales in 2018, up from 473 in 2015.

The charity has said it received over 5000 calls each year regarding wildlife, with wild birds being the worst affected.

There are on average over 26 incidents of plastic per a year since 2015 and they get an average of 14 calls per a day.

Various pieces of litter discarded into a pond at West Park, Darlington

Plastic bags can be the worst offenders as animals often climb inside them or try to eat them causing them to choke.

Plastic cans and containers can also entangle animals and cause them harmful injuries.

In recent years stray balloons have also caused an impact with many animals choking on them.

Alex Farmer works at Whitby wildlife sanctuary and has experienced first-hand the impact waste has on animals, you can find out more in the video below.

Nature Reserves Tackling the Problem

Local nature reserves have also stepped up to provide a safe environment for our wildlife.

A Duck on Drinkfield Marsh

Many are run by volunteers who work tirelessly throughout the year to keep protected reserves free from waste.

The passion from volunteers has led many areas to be virtually waste free however windy weather can cause outside waste to be blown in.

This has caused many to urge surrounding villages, towns and businesses to be more aware of their litter and where it could end up and in doing so take steps to reduce the risk.

Hardy Jones is a volunteer for Drinkfield Marsh in Darlington and you can find out more about the Marsh, its wildlife and what it’s doing to combat litter in the video below.

Litter Picks Paving the Way

Due to councils restricted budgets many green spaces rely on volunteers to clear them of rubbish.

There are over 2o volunteer wildlife groups across the North East dedicated to lending a helping hand to local wildlife.

A few members of Friends of Drinkfield Marsh after there successful litter pick

According to Surfers Against Sewage in the last year, 67,759 volunteers have removed 116 tonnes of plastic pollution.

Litter often leads to more litter, as one person thinks its ok to drop a can on the floor others often follow suit.

Volunteers are helping to set an example and remove litter before it becomes a much bigger problem, taking part in litter picks can also give you a sense of community as you meet so many new people and make lifelong friends.

Friends of Drinkfield Marsh recently took part in a local litter pick to clean out any unwanted rubbish in the reserve and surrounding lay-by.

The group had a fantastic turnout and collected a whopping 40 bags worth of rubbish, along with tyres and cones.

What Can You Do?

Whitby Wildlife’s resident fox

The best way to help animals is to simply dispose of your rubbish responsibly, taking steps to recycle where you can and putting your litter in designated bins instead of dropping it on the floor.

Tying knots in plastic bags can help prevent animals getting stuck in them whilst cutting loops of plastic can holders can stop them getting tangled up in them and chocking.

Pinching cans shut before recycling them can also help prevent harm to animals.

The biggest issue on our coastlines are from fishing in the form of discarded, nets, lines and hooks with the RSPCA urging people to be more responsible when they fish.

Getting involved in litter picks and picking up stray litter as seen in the cases above can also make a huge difference to the environment and nature.

A hedgehog at Whitby Wildlife Sanctuary – soon to be released back into the wild

Everyone needs to do their part to protect our wildlife and green spaces from man-made waste and as people become more conscious it should lead to a cleaner environment for everyone if we all work together.

More information about local litter picks in your area can be found via Litter Action.

Trainee Journalist at Teesside University

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