Graphic showing trash and recyclables that may pose threats to wildlife if they end up in a landfill, waterway, etc.

Pre-treating Trash and Recyclables for the Benefit of Wildlife


As we barge through these first decades of the anthropocene – anthroobscene? – we’re getting reminders every day of the damage humans are doing to the planet and to our fellow earthlings. Who isn’t sickened by the sight of a starving polar bear, elephants rummaging through trash, or a crushed turtle in a road left to slowly die?

Photo of herd of elephants rummaging through mound of trash.
Elephants forage for food in a Sri Lankan landfill.

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, the melting ice caps, ever-increasing light pollution, the ongoing destruction of rainforests, coral reefs, prairies and other wildlife homes to feed the ever-widening maw of homo sapiens, … These obscenities require COVID-level crisis response. They’re not getting it.

Monied interests of course tend to be quite comfortable with the status quo. Bayer/Monsanto will fight like hell to keep RoundUp on the market. Oil companies will fight like hell to build new pipelines. Plastics manufacturers will go so far as to blame consumers for the plastic that has found its way into the air and indeed into our bodies.

Some of us have the time, energy, and inclination to fight big fights. Some of us do the best we can with limited time, energy, or inclination. Whichever group you’re in, you can be a part of the growing effort to make your trash and recyclables less hazardous to wildlife.

Duck caught in six-pack ring.

It started with the plastic six-pack rings, of course, when we saw the malformed bodies of reptiles ensnared in them from an early age. Now many of us automatically slice up these rings before discarding them.

And that’s a good thing, unless of course that makes them more appealing meals for seabirds and marine animals, but that’s another story. Either way, we need to do a lot more. Most of us cannot be sure that our trash or our recycling won’t end up exposed to wildlife in a landfill or even in a body of water somewhere. So before you toss anything into the trash or recycling bin, think twice about whether it – like an intact six-pack ring – may pose a threat to wildlife.

Here are some we’ve identified:

Graphic showing trash and recycling that can pose threats to wildlife. Contact AHNow.org for details.

Note: The content of this graphic is by no means set in stone. If you have any input on how we can improve it, please let us know!

Limit your purchase of single-use materials! Buy bulk when you can. Reuse bags, boxes, twist ties, and the like.

Finally, we’d be remiss to not mention fishing line. Animal Help Now constantly gets reports of animals, mostly waterfowl, ensnared in discarded fishing line. If you spend anytime near areas where humans fish, be on the lookout. The tool you carry to snip discarded masks may very well help you remove this threat from the homes of our wildlife neighbors. And if you see someone discard a line, either confront that person or take good notes of the time, location, person’s description, license plate, whatnot, and contact law enforcement.


4 thoughts on “Pre-treating Trash and Recyclables for the Benefit of Wildlife”

  1. I’d like to have a complete blow up of the 11 things you can do to help recycle and keep wildlife safe. I work part time in a veterinary clinic and have put up some of the information this website has provided. A lot of it I didn’t know and figured others don’t know either. I’d like to put this up at the clinic as well as at my full time job with a University. How can I obtain that picture and explanation?
    Also, you all used to have a store but I don’t see it listed on your website anymore.

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