BBC Springwatch’s CHRIS PACKHAM: MILLIONS of animals die eating litter

BBC Springwatch’s CHRIS PACKHAM: MILLIONS of animals die eating litter

February 20, 2019

BBC Springwatch presenter CHRIS PACKHAM calls for Britons to tackle the scourge of litter as shock figures reveal MILLIONS of animals die in the UK each year after eating our waste

We can’t wait. Change has to come from us

Once you start thinking about litter, you notice it everywhere – cluttering verges and tangled in hedgerows – and the problem seems to be getting steadily worse.

Litter is ruining our beautiful countryside and open spaces, choking our parks and playgrounds, scarring our rivers and beaches, and turning our cities into apocalyptic wastelands.

Seal caught in plastic bag at Brixham harbour, Devon. The seal managed to free itself after 15 minutes of struggling but some animals trapped by our plastic waste are not so lucky

It is a disgusting situation that simply cannot continue, which is why I am so delighted to hear about the huge numbers of people coming together to do their bit to help clear it up.

It’s an amazing feat that more than 100,000 people have already signed up to the Great British Spring Clean – and there’s still time to do your bit! Just visit to take part.

A duck stuck in an energy drink can. There has been a massive increase in animal related deaths and injuries according to the RSPCA who are urging people to think of wildlife and stop littering

When there’s rubbish everywhere you look it can be very tempting to rail at the authorities for not providing more bins, not emptying them more frequently, or not spending our hard-earned taxes on rubbish clear-up crews. But change won’t happen if we leave it to them. 

Change has to come from US. I’ve been an ambassador for Keep Britain Tidy for many years and I’m wholeheartedly supporting the Great British Spring Clean, which is being organised in conjunction with the Daily Mail.

This is a brilliant opportunity for us all to up our game and for communities across the country to get together to clear litter – specifically toxic plastic litter – from our environment.

I’ll certainly be doing my bit – I’m never too busy to join a clean-up crew, jump out of my car to pick up rubbish by the road, or hand litter back to someone who has thoughtlessly dropped it.

I’m lucky enough to travel to all corners of the country and beyond to research and film nature programmes (in fact I’m filming in Gambia right now) and the littering I have seen is shocking. It’s not just urban areas, bus stops, city centres and children’s playgrounds misused by loutish adults – rubbish even finds its way into the most remote rural areas, too.

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A hedgehog stuck in a discarded jam jar – showcases the effects of litter on wildlife

I’ve always hated litter and I can’t stand the sight of our glorious countryside strewn with trash. We are at an ecological crisis point and it has never been more important to try to stop unmanaged plastic waste from harming our wildlife and being washed into rivers and waterways and ultimately reaching the ocean.


NEXT month, half a million Britons will get together with one huge mission in mind – to win the war on plastic.

And anyone can get involved! Visit to find all the information you need to join in too. This year, there are three ways you can help:

1) Pledge to contribute as an individual by picking up as much litter as you like, whenever you like, at any point.

2) Organise a clean-up with friends, neighbours or community group.

3) Join an organised clean-up group in your area. You can find details of groups on a special interactive online map.

Paper and card might eventually decompose, but unless we go out and pick them up, plastic bottles, balloons and straws will just stay there for hundreds of years blighting the beautiful natural landscape and killing wildlife.

More than 3million voles, shrews and mice die each year when they crawl into discarded bottles and cans and find they can’t escape. There they slowly starve.

It is an awful, protracted and painful death. A discarded crisp packet or a single torn and deflated balloon can kill innocent creatures too. It only takes seconds for a swan or a duck, a deer, fox or stoat to swallow one.

A hedgehog looking for food can get its head trapped in a can or its throat lacerated on the sharp edges and a single elastic band presents a real choking hazard to animals and birds alike.

Whether you worry about the aesthetics of your litter-strewn neighbourhood, the putrid stench of your town’s fly-tipping ‘grot spot’, plastic pollutants reaching your plate or the tragic and very real damage to wildlife, no one can say plastic litter doesn’t matter.

Something has to be done, and the Great British Spring Clean is a great place to start.

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