A new report by Keep Britain Tidy has revealed that thoughtless ‘tossers’ could be killing up to 3.2 million shrews and voles.
The study looked at litter along roadsides and in lay-bys and found that more than 8 per cent of bottles and almost 5% of the cans collected contained the remains of some of our smallest and most rare native mammals - common shrews, pygmy shrews, bank voles and wood mice.
These animals are an essential part of our wildlife heritage and form a vital part of the food chain, eating insects and plants and acting as prey for other animals and rare birds like owls and kestrels.
Keep Britain Tidy ambassador, naturalist and TV Chris Packham said: “We have all seen the impact of littered plastic bottles on our marine environment in recent months.
“Now, thanks to this research, we know it is killing millions of the small mammals that are a vital source of food for our native birds of prey.
“It is time for everyone to take responsibility for their rubbish.
“If you care about our country and its wildlife don’t be a ‘tosser’.”
Keep Britain Tidy’s new campaign is aimed at motorists who thoughtlessly throw rubbish from their vehicles with a blunt message ‘Don’t be a Tosser’.
Next month, new regulations come into force that will make it easier for councils to fine those who throw rubbish from their cars by allowing them to issue a penalty charge notice to the registered keeper of the vehicle, regardless of who actually threw the litter.
Chief Executive at Keep Britain Tidy, Allison Ogden-Newton, said: “The message is loud and clear: there is no excuse for being a ‘tosser’.
“We are spending millions of pounds every year cleaning up after selfish drivers who seem to think it is acceptable to throw their rubbish out of their car, van or lorry, turning our roadsides into a giant heartless wasteland.
“Now, thanks to this study, we know that they are not only making our country look filthy, they are also killing of our shrews and voles.
“In recent months we have seen the impact that litter is having on our oceans and, closer to home, we know that the RSPCA deals with a call about an animal killed or injured by litter every two hours.
“Now we know that thoughtless littering is having a devastating impact on the wildlife on our doorstep too, which has gone largely unnoticed until now.
“Enough is enough– keep your rubbish in your car and then put it in a bin when you can. Better yet, make sure you recycle it when you get home.”
Research by Keep Britain Tidy shows that many of those who throw rubbish from their car do it because they feel anonymous while in their vehicle and ‘safe’ from judgement by fellow road users.
Allison added: “It’s time to throw a spotlight on people who endanger the safety of other road users, waste taxpayers’ money and threaten the lives of some of our most important wildlife.
“Roadside verges can be a real haven for wildlife if we stop treating them like our personal rubbish dumps.
“We hope that councils will stop this environmental vandalism by using CCTV footage, together with their new powers, and start sending out messages to the ‘tossers’ that you will get caught and you will be fined.”