The problem with plastic

Wildlife Rescue Animal Welfare Animals Article taken from The Biscuit magazine Posted Dec 15, 2020
Simple tips you can use in everyday life to help reduce plastic waste and protect our wildlife and environment.
Plastic and waste is a hot topic right now with the future of our wildlife and planet in the spotlight. 

The ABC’s War on Waste was just one program that revealed the scale of Australia’s waste problem. We can all do our part to help reduce waste—even our furry friends have a role. Here are some easy ways for reducing waste in your household and helping our environment and wildlife. 

**Please note some images you may find distressing below**

Bulk up
As well as being more economical with everyday items, buying pet food or kitty litter in bulk helps to reduce the amount of packaging you use, and in turn, waste. Lots of dry food brands for dogs and cats are available in large bags. Once you’ve used all the food, you can recycle your bags with other soft plastics at your local supermarket. You could also look for brands that come in plastic tubs—these can be repurposed for use around the house, such as storage or use in the garden. Tinned food can also be recycled once used.
Walk the talk

Aim to collect two pieces of rubbish every time you walk your dog. It might not seem like much, but if you walk your dog every day, in a year you’ll collect 730 pieces of trash! As well as beautifying your neighbourhood, you’ll help reduce the amount of rubbish that ends up in our waterways and oceans and kills our marine life.  

And, if you like to pick up a coffee on your morning walk, don't forget to take your reusable cup for a top up! 

how long does plastic take to decompose

Get the scoop
Dealing with poo is an unavoidable part of life as a pet owner. There are a few ways to reduce your waste when you collect your pet’s poop! 

Use natural, biodegradable kitty litter that you can flush down the toilet or throw in the garden. You can even make your own litter, using sawdust or mulch, with some bicarbonate of soda to reduce odours. Check out the range of biodegradable litter on the market from RSPCA World for Pets. If you’re already mastering walking your cat on a harness, why not take them outside to go to the toilet? 

Use newspaper or paper towel to collect their poo, or, use toilet paper and flush it down the loo. When you’re out and about, there are also biodegradable poop bags you can use instead of plastic options. 

Worm your way out of it
They might not seem like the most exciting pet, but worms can play a huge role in reducing waste, and your garden will love them too! You can feed worms food scraps, and they’ll turn them into rich nutrients you can feed your plants. There’s an option to suit everyone, from kitchen-top composters for apartment dwellers, to backyard compost bins and dedicated worm farms. 

Composting tip: waste from herbivore pets, such as birds and guinea pigs, as well as hair and feathers, can be fed to worms or put in the compost without any worries too!

Waste from meat-eaters, such as dogs and cats, may contain harmful bacteria, so it isn’t suitable for your regular compost. However, you could consider setting up a dedicated pet waste compost system. This broken down waste can be used for ornamental plants, but isn’t suitable for food crops. 
Cut it and discard it properly

Sadly the simple bottle top ring can cause a world of pain for our wildlife. Simply cutting plastic rings before they are discarded can save lives. Sadly this bird wasn’t so lucky. A member of the public sent us this photo and was quite distressed that this poor bird had perished due to human waste.

dead bird with plastic ring

Luckily this magpie (below) was rescued by our Animal Ambulance volunteer and able to be released back into the wild once the ring that was obscuring its beak was removed.

the dangers of plastic rings and wildlife rspca

It's also not just birds that get caught up in our plastic waste, this little eastern water dragon was lucky to be found in this state below. He was brought into our RSPCA Wildlife Hospital and the plastic tube was removed. He was treated by our wildlife vets for crush injuries and muscle wastage. Luckily he made a full recovery from his ordeal and was able to be released back into the wild.

lizard rescued from plastic rspca queensland

This darter was also lucky to be caught and saved. While he proved elusive for a few days to catch, finally our Animal Ambulance team had success with a net gun. Volunteer Chantelle did have to get into the water for a dip to get to the bird, but he was safely able to be released once the synthetic stuffing was removed from his beak. If left in this situation, this darter would not have been able to eat and ultimately would have starved. 

darter saved from plastic waste

darter released after plastic removed from mouth rspca queensland

If you see wildlife in need of help, contact our 24/7 Animal Emergency Hotline 1300 ANIMAL (1300 264 625). 

Get crafty
Making your own pet toys and treats is a great way to reduce waste and save money. With hundreds of DIY pet toy ideas online and featured in our RSPCA Magazine The Biscuit, you’re bound to find something that suits your pet and your skill level. 

Got bottle caps and a cat? Our shelter cats love these easy to make dangles. 

upcycled plastic cat toy DIY rspca

Donate and repurpose

If you can’t reuse or repurpose something, before you toss it, see if it can be donated! You can donate old blankets, towels, sheets and bedding to the RSPCA directly to keep our pets and wildlife comfortable during their stay. You can even donate pre-loved items to our RSPCA Op Shops. While you’re at one of our Op Shops you might even spot something you can upcycle!

Jen Lofgren
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