Whale washed ashore with 115 plastic cups and two flip-flops in its stomach

The 31-foot sperm whale was found near Kapota waters in the Southeast Sulawesi province Credit: Ricky-Lee Tompkins/PA

One hundred and fifteen plastic cups and 25 plastic bags were among nearly 6kg of rubbish found in the stomach of a dead whale that washed ashore in eastern Indonesia.

Rescuers found the carcass of the 31-foot sperm whale on Monday near Kapota waters in the Southeast Sulawesi province.

Inside the male whale were the cups and bags as well as four plastic bottles, two flip-flops, a nylon sack and more than 1,000 other plastic pieces.

The cause of the death was still unknown and the carcass was to be buried on Tuesday without a necropsy because of its decayed condition.

Dwi Suprapti, a marine species conservation coordinator at WWF Indonesia, said: “Although we have not been able to deduce the cause of death, the facts that we see are truly awful.”

Indonesia, an archipelago of 260 million people, is the world’s second-largest plastic polluter after China, according to a study published in the journal Science in January.

It produces 3.2 million tonnes of mismanaged plastic waste a year, of which 1.29 million ends up in the ocean, the study said.

Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, Indonesia’s coordinating minister of maritime affairs, said the whale’s discovery should raise public awareness about the need to reduce plastic use, and had spurred the government to take tougher measures to protect the ocean.

“It is possible that many other marine animals are also contaminated with plastic waste and this is very dangerous for our lives," he said.

He said the government is making efforts to reduce the use of plastic, including urging shops not to provide plastic bags for customers and teaching about the problem in schools nationwide to meet a government target of reducing plastic use by 70% by 2025.