Updated: Mar 4
World Cleanup Day (18th September) is a civic movement, uniting 180 countries worldwide to clean up the planet. In one day, World Cleanup Day 2019 brought together 21 million people from 180 countries who cleaned up over 100 thousand tons of waste in 24 hours; this year's event will be bigger than ever.
You do not have to be a ZooLab Ranger to know that a cleaner planet means better habitats for animals and thriving ecosystems. As part of World Clean up Day 2021, we pledge to collect bags full of rubbish throughout the UK to help improve the life of local wildlife. Together we can do this!
Ready for the shocking facts?
In a single day, 2 million bits of rubbish are littered in the UK (Keep Britain Tidy, ND)
Highways England collects over 180 thousand bags of waste from on roads each year (Countryfile, 2019)
Littering costs local councils £700 million each year (DEFRA, 2021)
An estimated 2.9 million small animals lose their lives each year due to the incorrect disposal of bottles and cans (BBC, 2018)
The problem with litter bugs
Living in what has been dubbed the “fly-tipping capital of Britain”, I can often be seen litter picker in hand as one of many volunteers keeping our neighbourhood clean. Still to this day, I am taken aback by the sheer volume of rubbish left behind in our green spaces.
Not only is litter unsightly, but it is also a massive danger to people and animals. How many times have you visited your local green space and had to walk around the broken glass? Me, far too many times to count. In an area where children play, this can cause terrible injury and for us dog walkers, a huge vet bill.
For a wild animal, litter can mean death! From glass injury to ingestion or becoming trapped, incorrect disposal results in at least 11 calls a day to the RSPCA; the biggest culprits being plastic bags (we’ll come on this in a moment), plastic holders, balloons Chinese lanterns, food containers, cans, glass, elastic bands and fishing tackle.
Notice how many of the above items were plastic? We’ll we’re using more than ever. It’s durable and cheap to produce - we’re consuming it at staggering rates. Current estimates show that at least 8 million pieces of plastic are entering the oceans every year (ICUN, ND).
The real impact of discarded plastic bags is felt by wildlife, both in the marine environment and in rural areas. Plastic bags, once ingested, cannot be digested or passed by an animal so it stays in the gut which can prevent food digestion and lead to a slow and excruciating death.
The scary part is that now, it is not just animals ingesting plastic! A study on fish in the English channel found that 1 in 3 caught for human consumption contained microplastics.
What can you do?
The number one thing you can do is dispose of your litter correctly - put it in a bin (if there isn’t one, take it home).
It is a massive help to the environment if you also pick up any litter that you see. World Cleanup Day (18th September) is the perfect time to start; see if there is an event in your area or host your own!
Be mindful of packaging, reduce the amount of plastic you consume. RSPCA also have a lot of tips on how to dispose of waste in a way that will have less impact on wildlife