Special investigation: Plastic pollution and the damage it's causing our countryside, our waterways... and our wildlife

  • Watch: Wildlife being harmed by plastic pollution

Plastic pollution is killing our wildlife and damaging the countryside.

As ITV Central launches a special investigation into the true scale of the problem, we spoke to wildlife rescuers who deal with hundreds of animals injured by plastic a year.

Geoff Grewcock, who runs the Nuneaton and Warwickshire wildlife sanctuary, introduced our reporter Charlotte Cross to just some of the animals he has saved after they got caught up in plastic.

Harry the fox was brought in by a passer-by after getting a plastic comb stuck in the skin of his mouth and jaw. The centre say he would have starved to death if he had not been brought in.

This fox was rescued by the wildlife sanctuary after getting a plastic comb stuck in its mouth Credit: ITV News Central

Not every animal is so lucky.

He's now started collecting evidence of the plastic items he has removed from animals - some wrapped around their bodies and necks, others embedded in their skin, and some who have swallowed them.

Even simple items like ear buds and plastic pull-ties can be deadly for a foraging hedgehog or fox.

Britain's countryside and its network of canals and waterways are heaving under the weight of plastic litter.

The latest government figures show that in 2016, the UK produced around 2.2m tonnes of plastic packaging waste.

But less than half - just over 1m tonnes - was recovered or recycled.

The rest either ends up in landfill - or is littered.

Stroll around any of our roadways, woodland walks, ot beauty spots and waterways and it becomes clear just how much is being discarded rather than properly disposed of.

Figures from the Canal and River Trust reveal that for every 78-foot-stretch of waterway, they find, on average, 150 plastic bags as well as other litter.

These take decades to degrade and can trap fish and other wildlife.

All week, ITV Central is investigating the problem of plastic pollution.

During the course of the next few days, we'll meet the companies trying to solve the problem of what to do with plastic waste, the councils making major policy changes, and the ordinary people doing their best to make a difference.

More on this story