RSPCA warn public to cut face masks before disposing of them to save wildlife

4 September 2020, 14:53

The RSPCA has warned plastic face masks can harm wildlife
The RSPCA has warned plastic face masks can harm wildlife. Picture: Getty Images

Animal charity RSPCA has warned the public against throwing their single use face masks straight in the bin.

With face masks now compulsory on public transport and in shops in the UK, the RSPCA has now warned these discarded face coverings can harm wildlife.

In a Tweet to their followers 260k, the RSPCA republished a message which reads: “Pls cut off the white ear straps before binning. ⁦@RSPCA_official⁩ advice.”

The official advice by the charity states that members of the public should snip the loops of face masks, plastic carrier bags and plastic can holders before disposing of them.

They should also cut up disposable gloves too to stop animals getting trapped in them.

This comes after employees of a car dealership in Chelmsford, Essex, found a seagull with its feet tangled in the ear loops of a single-use face mask.

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Adam Jones, inspector at the RSPCA, said that when he approached the gull, he noticed it couldn’t walk away because of the mask.

He said: "Staff at a car showroom nearby had spotted the gull around a week earlier and were concerned that he seemed to be struggling to walk.

"Whenever they got near him to see what was wrong he flew off.

"But on Saturday they became increasingly concerned because he’d been sat in the same spot for hours and didn’t appear to be moving.”

He continued to BBC News: "As soon as I caught him it was clear to see why as the poor thing had a disposable COVID face mask tangled around both legs.

"It’s clear the mask was there for some time and the elastic straps had tightened around his legs as his joints were swollen and sore."

The seagull was taken to South Essex Wildlife Hospital where a vet was able to safely remove the mask.

Unfortunately, the hospital revealed they had seen many other cases of animals being tangled in masks and gloves, including a fox and a hedgehog.

Animal charity PETA has also offered it’s own advice to try and reduce the impact on wildlife, suggesting people who work outside the medical field should consider buying reusable masks that are easily washable.

Their website also states that you should check to see if your local recycling facility takes disposable masks, or throw them away in a receptacle.

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