Monday, 10 October 2016

Litter and Wildlife - It is our responsibility

I recently tweeted this picture:

... and it got a lot of retweets and comments.  A couple of people tweeted, quite rightly, that they would never throw litter so they could not be responsible for the plight if this poor bird.  I have no doubt they that they do never chuck plastic bags into the wider environment - or any litter for that matter - but that slightly missed my point.  My point is that we all use plastic but we actually do not have a lot of control over what happens to it once we stop using it.

Vast amounts of the plastic in our lives is only used ONCE and then we either put it in the general rubbish bin or, if available, a recycling bin and that's it.  It's gone and we never think about it again.  We have been responsible citizens and we have not added our plastic bag to the vast amounts of unsightly litter in the environment.  But can we be sure?  How can we be sure that the plastic bag we threw in the bin does not blow out of the bin lorry as it drives along?  What about when it gets to the landfill site or recycling plant?  However well run these places are plastic bags are very light and can easily be picked up by the wind and blown away.  So yes, you might not have thrown the bag directly into the path of this bird but there is no way you can say this bag was not yours or that it did not cross your path at some time.  It looks like it may be the type of bag the garage puts over your car seat to keep it clean.  Maybe they used it on your car seat, threw it away before you collected your car and afterwards it ended up being blown away? 

What I am trying to say then is that we are all directly or indirectly responsible for the litter that blights the world and its wildlife.  Millions of tonnes of plastic are now floating in the oceans causing untold damage to marine life.  Landfill sites are full to overflowing.  Recycled plastic often only gets downgraded to another form that itself cannot be recycled.

Most plastic is made from petrochemicals such as crude oil which are a non renewable resource so ultimately alternative forms of plastic will have to be found that hopefully are biodegradable or easy to recycle back into the same form.  But in the meantime plastic is our problem and we need to take responsibility for that.  I blogged here about 100 ways to reduce plastic use and so you might also want to consider following these ideas to reduce the risk of plastic you have used ending up causing problems like these:

Cutting across each loop from these can holders before binning them will reduce the risk of this happening:

By Ian Kirk from Broadstone, Dorset, UK [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Maybe you didn't throw away the net but maybe you did eat the fish it caught:

Image from U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

This Albatross chick was fed plastic by its parents which resulted in its death:

Credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Robert Wilson

If you google wildlife affected by plastic you will see some truly horrific instances of what plastic can do to wildlife.  Reducing how much plastic you use has to be a good thing.



  1. I find plastic packaging very difficult to avoid. I do buy things at local shops where I can as I find they use less and I prefer to support small businesses anyway. I recycle everything I can, but as you say you don't know what happens after you put it in the bin. I will start cutting across those can holders when we have them to throw away as that is a simple thing to do.

    1. It is scary how much plastic there is and how hard it is to avoid. I have been cutting the plastic can holders for years and I do know there are biodegradable ones now made but I suspect they are more expensive.

  2. Some people don't realize that that their plastic containers still can fly out of their trash and recycling containers, so it still COULD be theirs. So sad. Thanks for spreading word on this topic and for sharing on the #wastelesswednesday blog hop.

  3. So very sad what we are doing to our planet. I am definitely trying to cut down on the plastic we use in our household. Thanks for the reminder and for sharing with #wastelesswednesday.

  4. That is so sad isn't it. We don't realise how harmful these are x

  5. Sometimes it all feels overwhelming just what a terrible mess we're making of our planet. I know every little helps and most of us do try but as your 100 ways to cut down post made me realise there's plastic in just about every single thing we buy now. And this is just Europe. Go to Asia and see just how devastating the plastic waste is there. I read a horrific statistic recently about plastic bag use in Indonesia and how every day around 27 million were used as every tiny thing you buy is put in an individual bag.


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