Steep rise in animals hurt by plastic litter

Seal the deal: The seal was nicknamed “Mrs Frisbee” before she was saved and put back in the wild. © Friends of Horsey Seals

Should plastic be banned? The RSPCA says the number of animals hurt by plastic has risen sharply in Britain since 2015. Birds and marine animals are particularly at risk.

What’s happening

In late 2017, the RSPCA arrived at a beach in Norfolk to find a seal with a yellow frisbee trapped around her neck, digging painfully into her skin. She was rescued and released back into the wild last year. However, the RSPCA now says that more and more animals in Britain are being hurt by plastic.

Find out more

The RSPCA says there were 579 cases of animals hurt by plastic litter in 2018, up 22% from 2015. The number of seals hurt by plastic had more than quadrupled, while swans and geese were becoming trapped in fishing lines and netting.

“Plastic is clearly having an increasing impact on animal welfare,” said the RSPCA’s head of wildlife, Adam Grogan. “It’s up to every one of us to do our bit in the war against litter.”

Last month, a separate report said that researchers had found microplastics in the digestive systems of every stranded marine animal they studied. That included dolphins, seals and a sperm whale.

The UK government is already planning to ban plastic straws, drink stirrers and cotton buds. Is it time to ban plastic altogether?

Some say…

Definitely. Thousands of creatures are being hurt by plastic all around the world, through no fault of their own. Plastic waste can stay in the environment for centuries, so the more we create, the deeper the problems become. We lived without plastic 100 years ago, when most things were made from wood, paper, glass or metal. Why not do it again?

Others think…

Banning plastic is too extreme. It has dramatically improved our lives, whether it is being used in complicated medical equipment or just keeping our food fresh for longer. Banning it would end up creating far more problems than it solved. Instead of panicking and acting rashly, we should get better at recycling and picking up litter.

You Decide

  1. Could you live without using plastic every day?

Activities

  1. As a class, list all of the plastic that you can see in your classroom. What alternatives could you use instead? Do you think this would make life better or worse?

Some People Say...

“You can’t change the world; you can’t fix the whole environment. But you can recycle.”

Patti Smith

What do you think?

Word Watch

RSPCA
The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. It is an animal charity in England and Wales.
Frisbee
A flying plastic disc.
Quadrupled
Multiplied by four.
Microplastics
Tiny pieces of plastic. Sometimes they are used in products like toothpaste. Their small size means they can be accidentally eaten by sea creatures.
Digestive systems
The organs which break down food inside the body.
Dramatically
Greatly.

Subjects

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