The animal welfare charity has recorded a rise in incidents affecting animals involving plastic litter in England and Wales from 473 in 2015 to 579 in 2018, bucking a downward trend for all types of litter (from 4968 in 2015 to 4579 in 2018).
The West Midlands saw 60 plastic litter incidents affecting animals in 2015, which rose to 77 in 2018.
The charity’s latest data also reveals that there are certain animals – especially those that live in water habitats – which are being affected disproportionately by plastic.
For example, there has been a fourfold rise in seals affected by incidents involving plastic litter with 28 recorded across England and Wales in 2018 compared to just 5 in 2015. Plastic litter is also a particular problem for certain water birds, with incidents involving geese rising from 37 to 70 and swans rising from 40 to 48 across England and Wales during that same four-year period.
RSPCA Head of Wildlife, Adam Grogan said: “This shocking rise in plastic litter incidents suggests that plastic is a growing threat to animals.
“Every year, the RSPCA deals with increasing numbers of mammals, birds and reptiles that have become entangled or affected in some way by discarded plastic. From seals with deep infected wounds caused by plastic frisbees cutting into their necks, to swans and geese trapped in fishing line or netting, plastic is clearly having an increasing impact on animal welfare.
“Our latest data sadly reflects the wider litter crisis taking place right now across the globe and action is urgently needed. It’s up to every one of us to do our bit in the war against litter.”
In the West Midlands, incidents where animals have been affected by general litter have decreased while plastic-related litter incidents increased.