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
    +26

    Comment number 432.

    Those who think that "most" owners clear up after their dogs are profoundly mistaken. I see dog mess whenever I am out walking. It blights the countryside, as do littering and fly tipping.
    The most sensible solution is to charge owners a license fee, per dog, and make it illegal to have an unlicensed dog. The licence fee could be used to help pay for people to clear up the mess.

  • rate this
    +8

    Comment number 428.

    The only way to truly improve human health and bacterial levels at bathing waters is to improve sewage treatment works as well as identify and address argiculturual sources of bacteria. The impact from these sources so heavily outweighs any impact from dog waste that dog waste is insignificant. Resolving dog waste is worthwhile but bathing waters are not at risk from dogs rather from us.

  • rate this
    +19

    Comment number 383.

    Although I don't own a dog, I have done in the past, and I totally agree the dog licensing should be brought back, If only we could be sure that the government would use the revenue to put up more dog poo bins, get them emptied, and to police 'dangerous dogs' which are also a menace.
    When I had a dog, I had a special dog poo 'cannister' which you could put your bagged dog poo in and take home.

  • rate this
    +15

    Comment number 363.

    As a hopefully "responsible" dog owner, I can honestly say that I have NEVER left bagged dog poo anywhere but in a bin - and I can say that I believe the vast majority of dog owners do the same. I do find that the lack of appropriate bins is frustrating, and yes, I would be happy to pay a "dog owners fee" to assist in the funding of such bins, so that non owners are not paying for my pleasure.

  • rate this
    -53

    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.

 

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