A pregnant sperm whale that washed up on the shore in Sardinia was found to have almost 50lb of plastic in its stomach.
The items included garbage bags, fishing nets, plastic plates and a bag of washing detergent.
The roughly 6-metre long (20ft) carcass was found in the tourist hotspot of Porto Cervo on the Italian island last Thursday.
Experts from the non-profit organisation SEAME Sardinia winched it away from the shore so the cause of death could be determined.
The specialists found 48.5lb (22kg) of plastic inside the animal along with the lifeless foetus.
The organisation’s president Luca Bittau said the animal’s cause of death will be known after histological and toxicological examinations are carried out by vets in Padua, northern Italy.
Mr Bittau told Sky News: “Plastic in the oceans is a huge problem, we can remove the plastic in the surface but we can’t do anything about the plastic at the bottom of the oceans.
“All the plastic is there and it will be there for ever.
“We have to reduce the use of plastic in our daily life, especially the single-use plastic. We have to change our habits and use other materials like wood.”
‘I’ve filmed plastic in the oceans – it’s horrific for sealife’
Diver Rich Horner sparked an international conversation about plastics in the ocean, after a video taken during a swim went viral.
Italy’s environment minister Sergio Costa posted an image of the animal on Facebook, and wrote: “Marine litter afflicts the whole marine world, not just Italy of course, but every country in the world has the duty to apply policies to combat it.”
He also made reference to a law that was approved by European Parliament which will ban single use plastics by 2021.
Mr Costa added: “The European directive was approved, and I promise you that Italy will be one of the first to implement it.”
A whale that washed up in the southern Philippines in March died after swallowing 40kg of plastic bags.
Another whale was found dead in Thailand in June 2018 after eating more than 80 plastic bags.
:: Sky’s Ocean Rescue campaign encourages people to reduce their single-use plastics. You can find out more about the campaign and how to get involved at www.skyoceanrescue.com.