ANIMALS 101 – MISMANAGED TRASH HAS A DEVASTATING EFFECT ON THE ENVIRONMENT, BUT ALSO A HIGH RISK FOR INJURY OR DEATH TO ANIMALS.
Even though you might throw your trash in the garbage bin, where they land eventually can still impact the environment and hurt animals. Littering, in general, is bad for the environment, but today we will focus on what you can do when disposing of litter in your garbage bin, to prevent animals from suffering.
HOW DOES LITTER AFFECT ANIMALS?
Litter can negatively affect animal life in many ways.
- One of the most common effects of litter on animals is entanglement. Animals of all shapes and sizes can find themselves trapped and hurt by various waste products, especially plastic ones, leading to severe injuries or even death if they can’t escape.
- It is easy for wildlife to mistake small pieces of plastic for food since there are millions of them floating in our oceans forming huge garbage patches. Sea turtles, for example, are often found trying to eat plastic bags because they resemble jellyfish, one of their natural prey. Ingesting litter can cause direct harm to an animal’s internal organs, force starvation by filling its stomach and intestines with indigestible material, decrease its mobility, and poison it to the point of sickness or death.
- Modern-day garbage dumps, which are full of harmful products and chemicals, are emerging as a serious threat to animal and plant life and are leading to a shift in the food, behaviour and reporductive habits of wild animals.
- Fish, who are unable to reverse, might swim into plastic and suffocate.
- Some animals hide in garbage for shelter and may get trapped or injured.
- Litter on the road can cause animals to be hit by cars.
Everyday items such as soda cans and plastic bottles can be deadly for unsuspecting wildlife and even for your cats and dogs (or others). Here are some simple tricks by PETA and The Paw Company share what you can do to help prevent animals from suffering:
What can happen: Six-packs of soda often come strung together by plastic rings. This feral cat got her head caught in one of them.
How you can help: Cut apart all sections of plastic six-pack rings, including the inner diamonds.
FISHING LINE & HOOKS
What can happen: Birds frequently get their beaks wrapped or wings tangled up in discarded fishing lines. Hooks can be swallowed or become embedded in birds’ skin or beaks.
How you can help: If you spot fishing litter, pick it up and dispose of it. Read The Paw Company’s post on the cruel practice of catch-and-release.
BEER & SODA CANS
What can happen: Even the tiniest animals can fall victim to litter. Discarded soda cans are tempting to small animals who are looking for food or shade. Animals can also be cut by cans’ sharp edges.
How you can help: Be sure to dispose of your cans responsibly. Rinse and crush cans before tossing them into the recycling bin. You can also fold the tab back to block off the hole on the top.
GUM & LABELS
What can happen: Animals often step in gum or the sticky labels. Gum can become matted in their fur or feathers, making it difficult for them to move.
How you can help: Never spit gum onto the ground. Wrap it in paper and dispose of it in a proper receptacle. Paste the sticky sides of tape onto eachother.
TIN CANS, CUPS, & JARS
What can happen: Hungry animals desperate for even just a few crumbs often get their heads stuck in discarded cans, cups, and jars.
How you can help: Always rinse out containers (and place the lids back on them!) and crush metal cans before disposing of them.
PLASTIC BOTTLES & BAGS
What can happen: Whales, turtles, and seabirds often mistake trash for food, and if eaten, it can choke them or cause fatal stomach or bowel obstructions.
How you can help: When shopping, choose paper bags or take your reusable bags whenever possible.
What can happen: Curious pets put their head into a chip bag (or similar packaging), the bag creates a vacuum-seal around the neck of the pet when they inhale. This can cause them to suffocate.
How you can help: Cut down the sides of the chip bag before you throw it away.
People think straws are a problem?
What can happen: The strings of the masks get entangled on the feet/legs of animals, especially birds. This can lead to injury or death if they can’t escape.
How you can help: Cut off both strings from the mask.
What can happen: We have a massive overpopulation crisis of animals and this problem is perpetuated one litter at a time. This leads to millions of animals being killed humanely annually (euthanized), because there are just not enough homes.
How you can help: Spay & neuter your pets and sponsor sterilizations as much as you can. Keep them secure in your yard.
WHAT ELSE CAN YOU DO?
The problems are not only limited to the above!
- Don’t litter.
- Clean up in your community. Find or create events to help pick up litter in your neighbourhood to help keep it litter-free for longer
- Securely cover garbage cans and recycle bins so that animals can’t get into them and become trapped inside.
- Keep an eye out for other people’s trash, too.
- Lessen it in your day-to-day life. Look for ways to prevent yourself from leaving waste behind by opting for more sustainable packaging and recycling the right way.
- Spread the word. More people need to understand the devastating effects litter has on animal and plant life.
- In the Secunda area, contact Secunda Recycle project.
- Join the clean-ups of Groenstrook Gabbas /Greenstrip Gang.
- Use the recycle bins outside the Secunda Mall.
WHAT GOES UP, MUST COME DOWN
It has become popular at weddings, parties and funerals, to release sky lanterns or balloons. All released balloons, including those falsely marketed as “biodegradable latex,” return to earth as ugly litter as do lanterns. They kill countless animals and cause dangerous power outages. Balloons are also a waste of Helium, a finite resource. Balloons can travel thousands of miles and pollute the most remote and pristine places. Lanterns have caused fires far from where they are released, startled, injured and killed animals. When you plan a funeral or other events, celebrate life by not causing more death. You can easily google less harmful ideas.
Make ethical choices when it comes to the products you use. Think of both the environment and the animals. Your actions could be the difference between life and death for even one sentient being.
Next week we will look at why people surrender animals and their effects.
WHEN YOU KNOW BETTER, DO BETTER.