Dog dirt in plastic bags 'threatens beach safety'

Dog on beach The charity hopes the evidence will encourage pet owners to dispose of bagged dog mess responsibly

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A growing trend for pet owners to bag up dog dirt and leave it on beaches threatens bathers' safety and the health of wildlife, a report suggests.

The annual Marine Conservation Society beach litter survey pointed to an 11% increase in such mess on UK beaches, including a 71% rise in Scotland.

It recorded an 11% drop in overall litter during a September weekend.

But the charity warns an 8% increase in balloons found could worsen as a result of Diamond Jubilee and Olympic events.

Conservationists have been pressing the Welsh government to ban balloon and sky lantern release events, saying they pose a choking and entanglement danger to wildlife.

Meanwhile, the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) says dog dirt causes high levels of bacteria and leads to both reduced water quality and a human health risk.

Sewage debris

Pet owners have been thinking ahead by carrying plastic bags, said Lauren Davis, who co-ordinates the annual Beachwatch campaign.

But she added: "We hope our findings will now encourage them to take the bag off the beach and bin it in one of the many receptacles provided for the job."

Most common litter

  • Pieces of plastic - 54,043
  • Plastic lids - 15,448
  • Polystyrene pieces - 14,847
  • Crisp/sweet wrappers - 14,407
  • String and cord - 11,409
  • Plastic bottles - 11,223
  • Glass pieces - 11,007
  • Cotton bud sticks - 8,122
  • Fishing net - 7,474
  • Plastic cutlery/trays/cups - 5,989

Source: MCS Beachwatch Big Weekend, 16-19 September 2011

Almost 4,500 volunteers took part in the weekend event, cleaning 335 beaches and collecting 247,914 items of litter - equating to almost 1,741 pieces for every kilometre surveyed.

Despite this, Ms Davis described the results of the survey - between 16 and 19 September last year - as more encouraging than they had been for a while.

"We also saw a substantial dip of 33% in the amount of sewage-related debris on our beaches - that's the stuff people put down their loos but shouldn't, like cotton buds, condoms, sanitary towels and tampon applicators," she said.

The MCS has been conducting its Beachwatch survey since 1994, with litter levels reaching an all-time high in 2008.

Last year, ministers in Northern Ireland were so concerned by the fact only eight of its beaches received a Blue Flag award - the internationally-recognised standard of a clean beach - they convened a summit on the issue.

This was despite the 2010 Beachwatch survey finding it had some of the UK and its dependencies' tidiest beaches, behind only the Channel Islands.

In 2010, British Waterways launched a campaign to stop dog walkers leaving bags of dog dirt hanging from trees and hedgerows near canals.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 140.

    There are few acts which make me fume so much as seeing dogs#1t in bags on trees or left in the street. The sheer irrationality of biodegradable waste left in plastic is flabbergasting, but the arrogance to assume someone else will clear it up ... well don't get me started.

  • rate this

    Comment number 139.

    I don't understand dog owners who bag the mess then throw the bag on the ground - this is much worse than just leaving it without bagging it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 138.

    Responsible dog owners have always & will always clear up after their charges.
    No concern then for the mountains of plastic containers, 6 pack beer holders, sweet wrappers, plastic toys etc. all left by adults & children, all vulnerable to being blown out to sea, all harmful to wildlife & all non-bio-degradable. Dog owners are easy targets, whereas no-one wants to upset the mighty family voters.

  • rate this

    Comment number 137.

    The only way that condoms,tampon applicators etc etc can find there way onto our beaches is if the water companys are discharging UNTREATED sewage.
    That's how they make their huge profits then?
    I know what I'd like to do with the dog mess!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 136.

    I have a dog and always clean up after her, even on a beach. I think its disgusting the number of dog owners who leave their dogs mess behind, there are no excuses. Even worse tho is the number of sky lanters I have seen fall on other people property well alight. Also the number of helium filled ballons I have seen on our surrounding farm land, trapping animals is more disgusting that dog pooh!

  • rate this

    Comment number 135.

    Not ALL dog owners are irresponsible, I have a Labrador, who is not "a cruel GM wolf, struggerling to exist in the twisted form these sick dog owners desire." (check your spelling btw.) Also I have a loving fiancée so its not for reasons of loneliness as some have mentioned. We got a dog so that we are kept active and outdoors, not just sat in front of the TV every night/weekend.

  • rate this

    Comment number 134.

    I don't get to a beach very often but there are some parts of the country where dogs are confined to a particular beach. We've found that these are reasonably clean. Our village is battling constantly with irresponsible dog owners and there are plenty of dog poo bins around. As for the disgusting habit of hanging bags in the hedgerows - these people should be made to cut the hedges!

  • rate this

    Comment number 133.

    Where the hell do you people go for your walks? Reading these comments you would've thought that there was crap smeared all over the place. I see litter everywhere, I see poo very seldom.

  • rate this

    Comment number 132.

    As a dog owner I always clear up after my dog, who is trained to relieve himself on command. Like pretty much everyone I am angry about the minority who do not clear up. Over recent years in my area dog mess has markedly reduced as most owners now clear up. However a few stubbornly refuse to co-operate, but we all get the blame. And don't get me started on the litter from the local McDonalds.

  • rate this

    Comment number 131.

    We live right on the beach and through out the winter I have not seen and dog mess on the sand. Last Sunday was a nice day and we had a lot of visitors and loads of dog mess.
    Throughout the winter local dog walkers, including myself have used the beach, but have cleaned up after ourselves. As always it is the visitors who do not care and just leave the dog mess all over the place.

  • rate this

    Comment number 130.

    While we are at it, would it be possible to ban seagulls from beaches and create a no-fly-zone?

    Twice in my life I have been hit by seagulls whilst on or near a beach and it really is not good enough.

    At least with a dog he will not drop it on you from height and it is big enough to spot so as not to tread on it.

    Ban Seagulls but allow dogs to enjoy the beaches.

    Hip hip for common sense!

  • rate this

    Comment number 129.

    OK, so if you ban all dogs from beaches you will also be turning away the money their owners spend locally. We forgo foreign holidays as it's not fair to leave the dogs in kennels. They a swim and run on the beach, and we always go with bags etc and take our waste away from us. It's not us that leave the broken beer bottles (our dog cut his foot on one), maybe we should ban teenagers too?

  • rate this

    Comment number 128.

    @113 Nemi "Cats bury their mess'
    Rubbish. I have seen the cats in the neighbourhood with my own eyes use my garden as a toilet and leave it for flies to enjoy. My hobby of Gardening has even been spoilt because of the unpleasantness of accidentally putting my hand in Cat poo. Luckily I have no children so they don't get it all over themselves and then bring it into the house.

  • rate this

    Comment number 127.

    if only the NHS reforms got this kind of coverage.. maybe it wouldnt have been sold off to the highest bidder.. l cant see how dog poop is more important than the health of the nation.. after all its not very often you see police with automatic weapons at protests..

    funny thing is, dog poop is news.. yet health is not? l wonder how long this comment will be viewable before it gets moderated...

  • rate this

    Comment number 126.

    Would somebody like to explain to me what 'dog dirt' is?

    When did 'faeces' become socially unacceptable?

  • rate this

    Comment number 125.

    It is a shame that these people by not cleaning up their dogs mess are giving all dog owners a bad name and they are ruining it for responsible owners who do clean up after their dogs.
    Come on people lets all clean up so we can enjoy the country side/beach with our dogs and with the others who use them as well.

  • rate this

    Comment number 124.

    If the dog licence were reintroduced and at a level where the proceeds could be used to clean up dog mess as they do in Paris the problem would be reduced.

    No responsible dog owner would mind paying a small fee, perhaps £20 or £30 per week for each dog, for such a service.

  • rate this

    Comment number 123.

    It's not just beaches. The Lake District has a terrible problem with this, particularly places such as Buttermere and Rydal.
    Please see

  • rate this

    Comment number 122.

    The BBC should print an article called:

    Dog Poo and Your Fellow Man: Discuss

    That way people can focus on the issue at hand. MCS are doing great work and it's good to see overall litter has dropped. The take home message for me is not to set off any lanterns or balloons during this year’s celebrations. No less fun for behaving responsibly!

  • rate this

    Comment number 121.

    I do a lot of walking in the countryside around my home in Surrey and find lots of bags of dog poo hanging from bushes and trees. No doubt the owners think its funny or are too thick to be able to read past the bit that says "bag it and take it home"


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