World Clean Up Day: Trash's toxic impact on wildlife and their habitats

Clean up the world? There’s a day for that! Each September, millions of volunteers gather in nearly 200 countries to remove as much trash from the environment as they can. Among the largest civic movements in the world, its goal is to tackle the global waste crisis and to remind us that we have a responsibility to protect and preserve the world we live in.

Some of the trash collected

Most of the planet has a trash problem, and there is no denying its impact on the environment, human health, and wildlife.

A large amount of waste produced by humans each day still enters the environment and waterways and eventually, the ocean. Often, it is washed up on beaches and has serious implications for flora and fauna as well as diminishing the beauty of the beach.

To manage trash on Cousin Island Special Reserve, regular clean-ups are required throughout the year. There are dedicated sessions, but waste is also collected during turtle patrols and when it is seen.

Regularly collected items include PET bottles, flip-flops, toothbrushes, cigarette lighters, bottle caps, and polystyrene. Larger items that have washed ashore include gas bottles, boat seats, crates, buoys, ropes, nets, and FADS (Fish Aggregating Devices).

Larger items inclide buoys and gas bottles

Larger items include buoys and gas bottles

Clean-ups must be kept up to prevent fauna and flora from being negatively affected.

The island has the largest number of nesting Hawksbill turtles (Eretmochelys imbricata) in the western Indian Ocean, and the beaches must be kept trash-free for them. Trash on beaches is known to prevent females from nesting and also creates additional obstacles for hatchlings trying to enter the ocean.

Turtles and birds can also get entangled in trash, causing injury or death. Plastic rope coils around bird feet, restricting movement and leading to death.

The ingestion of trash by marine animals such as seabirds, sea turtles, marine mammals, and fish can cause obstructions in their digestive tracts and chemical contamination.

Several species have been observed using beach litter. Ghost crabs use it in their burrows and Hermit crabs utilize containers such as glass jars as an alternative to a shell where they can get trapped or exposed to residual chemicals. Birds constructing nests may pick up trash items to incorporate into their nests.

A hermit crab photographed on Cousin substituting its old shell for a glass bottle

A hermit crab photographed on Cousin substituting its old shell for a glass bottle

Coral reefs are prone to damage from trash when solid items impact coral and break it.

Cousin Island depends on ecotourism revenue. A beach filled with trash would not only detract from the quality of the habitat but also reduce its appeal to visitors. Trash such as containers that wash up on the beaches can also bring with them chemicals and other pollutants that may damage humans and the flora and fauna on the island.

Clean-ups are becoming more common as public awareness of the trash problem grows. Campaigns such as World Clean-up Day are also encouraging people to engage in sustainable practices such as reusing and recycling to reduce the amount of waste from the source. As businesses, organizations, and individuals come together, the collective effort also fosters a sense of community and hopefully, inspires lasting change beyond the designated clean-up day.

Our History

Since 1998.

Seychelles Nature, Green HealthClimate Change, Biodiversity Conservation & Sustainability Organisation

@CousinIsland Manager


Roche Caiman, Mahe


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Contact Us

Centre for Environment & Education

Roche Caiman,

P.O. Box 1310, Mahe, Seychelles

Tel:+ 248 2519090