Will you take the plastic-free challenge – for animals?

With simple changes, we can be a part of the solution in reducing plastic waste and the animal suffering it causes.

Animals Australia

Animals Australia team

Last updated June 21, 2023

Plastic is overwhelming the oceans and endangering sea animals – but instead of letting the thought of plastic pollution overwhelm us, we can choose to act. One action we can take right now is to sign up for Plastic Free July. By joining this global movement to be a part of the solution, we can help spread awareness and shift our habits to better share this planet with our animal friends.

As more people learn about waste and get on board with local initiatives to combat it, change is underway – and it’s being noticed. While there is still a long way to go, last year scientists reported a “heartening reduction” of plastic litter on Australia’s coasts, thanks to the collective efforts of caring individuals.

140 million people participated in Plastic Free July in 2022 – together, they reduced over 2 and a half million tonnes of waste. Imagine what we can accomplish with even more people joining in for animals and the planet.

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A pod of dolphins in clear blue water from aerial view.
With small changes, we can help protect marine life. Whether big or small, land or sea dwelling, cute or perhaps more questionable-looking, all animals are here alongside us – as fellow inhabitants of Earth.

Being plastic-conscious helps animals

In 2018, Victorians were left devastated as a pregnant whale had to be euthanised in Port Philip Bay – she was distressed and unwell, because she had a stomach full of plastic.

Sadly, sea animals suffering and dying from ingesting plastic, or becoming entangled in it, is not uncommon. Revealed by scientists filming a BBC documentary, even seabirds on remote islands hundreds of kilometres from Australia’s shore were found with over 90 pieces of “preventable” plastics in their system.

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A hand holding pieces of broken plastic rubbish found on the beach.
Large plastic pieces break down into smaller pieces and microplastics, posing a deadly threat to animals who ingest them unintentionally.

Taking action with our plastic waste is life-saving action for marine life and the world as we know it. Sea animals – from whales and sharks to birds and sardines – play a critical role in the intricate ecosystems in which they exist.

Beyond being critical to the biosphere, marine animals also deserve protection because they are here alongside us – as fellow inhabitants of the planet we share. And they aren’t as different to us as we first might think. Check out these two fish friends sticking together when one of them is being rescued from entanglement in a discarded fishing net.

Where does plastic pollution come from?

Most plastic never makes it to a recycling centre – instead, it gets lost, tossed, or buried in landfill. So, disposing of plastic waste properly is extremely important to protect animals. Perhaps even more effective in helping our marine friends is to avoid purchasing it in the first place, wherever possible.

Estimates suggest that half of all plastic produced is single-use. Designed to have an incredibly short lifespan, items like disposable drink bottles, food wrappers, and plastic bags, too often find their way to the seas.

Plastics littering the oceans also come from the fishing industry – and according to reports, fishing ‘ghost gear’ makes up the majority of large ocean plastics (by weight).

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Abandoned fishing gear is indiscriminate and can entangle, and kill, fish and other marine animals.

This ghost gear is a deadly threat to sea animals – and not just the fish targeted by the fishing industry who are capable of feeling pain and experiencing suffering. Netting, fishing lines and smaller broken-down pieces of microplastics are indiscriminate, endangering other animals like seals, turtles, and birds too.

As the consumer demand for ‘seafood’ fuels the fishing industry, being aware of its contribution to ocean pollution – and animal suffering – can make us more conscious consumers. Choosing animal-friendly food is not only one of the most powerful ways to shape a kinder future for our sea friends (and farmed animals and wildlifeon land too) – it’s also simpler and more delicious than ever! 

Join Plastic Free July for a cleaner, safer, planet

There’s nothing to lose by giving Plastic Free July a go – simply trying your best is taking positive action.

The 31-day challenge is likely to make you aware of the prevalence of plastic in our everyday lives, particularly plastic that is single-use. You’ll also be guided with tips and information to keep you motivated through your journey to plastic-conscious living.

When it comes to sparking a global movement for good, it’s definitely a case of ‘the more the merrier’, so why not convince an animal-loving friend (or a few) to join you this July?


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Other ways you can help sea animals

  • Fill your plate with food that is kinder to fish and other marine animals!

By choosing to leave fish in the sea where they belong, you are helping to shift demand away from the fishing industry which is a major contributor to ocean plastic pollution. As many processed foods are packaged in plastics, many people opt for plant-based whole foods with minimal to no packaging or ensure packaging is recycled correctly.

To see just how diverse and delicious animal-friendly food can be, head to VegKit.com or order your free Veg Starter Kit.

  • When plastic is unavoidable, dispose of it properly.

Try to get into the habit of checking labels to see which plastics can go in the recycling bin for curbside collection. For e-waste and larger household items with plastic, check if they’ll be accepted at your local recycling centre.

  • Pick up litter from our streets, parks, and beaches – even when it isn’t yours.

Many cities have local rubbish collection groups made up of compassionate volunteers – and if not, you could consider starting your own! Another option is to simply collect what you can when you go for a walk – for safety, bring along a rubbish bag or bucket, gloves, and a grabber or tongs. Remember, every piece picked up is one less piece endangering animals.

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A parrot fish and bat fish together in a reef – the parrot fish is almost cartoon-like, seemingly smiling at the camera.
Together, we can clean up our world and make it kinder for all.