Litter duck Abertillery pic1The number of animals affected by plastic litter in England and Wales is at an all-time high, with incidents increasing by 22% in just four years, according to new RSPCA data.

In Wales, plastic-related incidents reported to the RSPCA have increased almost 29% when comparing 2015 with 2018 – rising from 21 calls, to 27 incidents – despite the overall number of calls about litter falling significantly.

Similarly, across England and Wales, the animal welfare charity has recorded a rise in incidents affecting animals involving plastic litter from 473 in 2015 to 579 in 2018, again bucking a downward trend for all types of litter.

Between 2015 and 2018, RSPCA Cymru has recorded 331 incidents about animals involved with litter in Wales – almost a third (98) of which involved plastic.

In 2018, Wales-based problems included a hybrid duck found with a plastic ring stuck around his head and beak.

Wales: general litter incidents (and plastic incidents in brackets)





100 (21)

80 (27)

76 (23)

75 (27)

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.”

The RSPCA data also revealed that, across England and Wales:

  • Across all species, of the 4,579 incidents in 2018 which involved any types of litter, 3,228 were from angling litter and 1,351 general litter.

  • Across all species, of the 579 incidents in 2018 involving just plastic litter, 29 were litter from angling and 550 were from general litter.

  • The number of seals affected by any type of litter almost doubled from 55 in 2015 to 109 in 2018 (with plastic litter incidents rising from 5 to 28 across the same period).

Members of the public can help protect animals by taking litter home, disposing of it responsibly, and joining Keep Wales Tidy’s Spring Clean Cymru, which RSPCA Cymru proudly supports.

To help the RSPCA rescue animals impacted by litter, you can donate online.