Pick Up Your Trash! How Littering Kills Animals & Wildlife

littering harms animals
By Syira SAFM

Littering sucks. To us, it causes an eyesore to the public, it blocks drains and cause unbearable stench. But for in many natural places, littering kills animals. For us humans, it merely causes a mild inconvenience. But to stray animals and wildlife, it can be life-threatening.

There are countless of cases of dead animals found with plastic in their stomach, or strangled by plastic bags and other littered rubbish. Some of us might already be aware of how plastic is dangerous to sea animals and how it killed millions of marine life, but it is just as bad for land animals as well. Our trash never brings any good.

littering kills animals. dead bird found with stomach full of plastic bits
Image courtesy of pewtrusts.org

Here are ways how our irresponsible act of littering kills animals and wildlife alike:

1. Death Due to Eating Plastic & Toxic Chemicals

This would be the no.1 cause of unnecessary and preventable deaths among wild animals and strays. Many of our trash are not separated and it is sadly common to wrap food waste in plastic bags before littering in the streets.

Animals such as cats, dogs, crows, and even cows will scavenge for food. Using their keen sense of smell, they can detect leftover food among piles of plastic bag. As they are often starving, these animals would gobble up the food together with bits of plastic and other chemicals. Thus, they often develop stomach problems and many died of poisoning and other complications due to plastic indigestion.

2. Choking Due to Plastic Bags, Cans & Jars

It might be funny to see an animal’s head stuck inside a jar or a can, but many of them died due to getting strangled or choked from trash. Things like plastic rings often strangled the animal and cause inability to breath. The poor animal’s death is often slow and painful.

Our plastic bags are also the main murderer for many deaths in the wild. Plastics are notoriously hard to decompose for something we use only once. Same goes with straws, bottles, and anything single-use. These are especially harmful to marine life as the trash often end up in the ocean.

3. Cuts & Bruises from Sharp Objects

Hungry animals often gobble up food quickly without considering what they’re eating. As a result, many of them suffer cuts in their mouth after biting into glass, jars, and cans. Smalls animals such as mice and lizards would climb into littered tins and get cuts in their body due to the sharp edges.

So, what can we do to minimise the problem of littering in Malaysia?

1. Dispose your trash properly

The most obvious way is to stop littering and throw your rubbish at the right place. If you have an outdoor picnic or event where any trash is involved, please be responsible of your waste and clean up after yourselves. Tie your trash bags properly and ensure it is properly placed so it won’t spill out. Animals have a good sense of smell and will rummage through improperly-disposed trash. Which is how you end up with a very nasty and foul garbage bin.

If you see any litter by the street, do not hesitate to pick them up to your best effort. It takes one good person change the world. And the change starts with you!

2. Always keep rubbish bins close shut

If you own an outdoor rubbish bin at your home or work, ensure that it has a lid and that it’s closed at all times. It should only be opened when you have trash to fill it. This will prevent the smell of the rubbish bin to attract scavenging animals. And if your bin is overflowed, quickly solve the problem and empty the bin immediately. It has to be kept closed at all times so animals can be deterred away and your rubbish won’t get scavenge.

3. Report of illegal dumping activity

If you see any illegal dumping, take action and inform the relevant authorities. Illegal dumping grounds are dangerous to both the animals and people as it causes pollution and toxic waste. You can make a report to Jabatan Alam Sekitar (JAS) here or immediately call Selangor’s Waste Management for cases in Selangor.

You can also report animal cruelty here and take action for the voiceless animals.

4. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

We often hear what the 3R’s are but how often do we practice it? The first step is to reduce your waste. Make a habit of bringing your own food containers during take out, or use bio-degradable packaging materials. Many restaurants are replacing plastic straws with paper but it’s better to use your own reusable straws. It’s more hygienic and you can personalise it yourself!

When you want to send your trash to recycling centres (kudos to you!), make sure your trash is cleaned and packed neatly. Do no treat it like another rubbish bag. Ensuring that you dispose your trash properly helps with the recycling process and ensure that they are discarded the right way. Unfortunately, many recyclables end up in dumping grounds and continue harming strays and wildlife.


Littering kills animals. So, let’s take the first step and make the change. Stop littering, take action when you see other people who litter, and minimise our waste by reducing, reusing and recycling our trash. It’s good for us, the people, the animals, and the whole planet. SAFM sees littering as a very serious issue and condemn all action of littering.