Plastic litter in our oceans © Shutterstock

Plastics in our environment are harming wildlife on land, in our rivers, and at sea

Plastics are incredibly useful in many aspects of society, but once they enter our ecosystems they can have a devastating effect on wildlife all over the world.

It can take hundreds of years to decay, breaking down into smaller and smaller pieces. Larger plastics can entangle and ensnare seabirds, marine mammals and reptiles, and often mistaken for food. Once in the food chain, its consumed by predators and can even return to us in the seafood we eat ourselves.

Gannet caught in a plastic fishing net off the Isle of Wight coast

© A Williams

Tackling our plastic addiction; what you can do

The Wildlife Trusts campaigned for the government to introduce a ban on microbeads in toiletries and household products, which wash into our rivers and seas. We were also pleased to see the government introduce a 5p carrier bag levy, which has reduced our usage of bags by 85%, while also raising money for community projects.

However, we can all still do a lot to fight the plastic tide.

Do a beach clean 

Join a local beach clean event, organise one yourself, or even do a two minute clean while out for a walk - you'll be amazed at what you'll find. Find out more about how beach cleans help.

Reduce, reuse, recycle

Try and reduce the amount of plastic you use by swapping to reusable coffee cups, water bottles and bags. Make sure that used plastics are recycled wherever possible.


Talk to your local businesses and the companies you buy from about your concerns about plastic, and tell your MP you want action.

Read more about our work to

Create living seas Create clean rivers

Plastic debris washed up at Farlington Marshes nature reserve

© Chris Lycett

Microplastics affecting our nature reserves

Our volunteers work hard to help clean up our nature reserves like here at Farlington Marshes nature reserve, but the sheer amount of small plastic pieces beads amongst the debris on the shoreline make it a near impossible job. More needs to be done to prevent plastic entering our ecosystems in the first place.

More on our work on marine issues