Mess-bag habit fears

A NEW and bizarre danger can be found in and around Montrose, on popular footpaths and also on the beach.

The common thread is that all the areas at risk are popular with dog walkers.

And the danger is posed by the quite inexplicable decision of some dog walkers to pick up in a plastic bag the mess the dog has deposited - then either throw away the bag or, worse, hang it on a tree or bush.

The Marine Conservation Society (MCS) charity is seriously concerned about the bewildering habit, specifically in the context of our beaches.

MCS has been collating beach litter data, and is in no doubt as to the conclusion it has reached.

A spokesman told the Review: “Piles of dog poo shrink-wrapped in plastic bags could threaten the health and safety of Scottish beach visitors.”

The charity says that poop scooped in bags and left on British beaches rose by over 11 per cent between 2010 and 2011, with Scotland recording the biggest increase – a whopping 71 per cent year on year.

MCS Scottish Projects Officer Anne Saunders says the findings reveal good and bad habits.

She explained: “We’re delighted that Scottish pet owners enjoy dog friendly beaches and clearly think ahead by carrying poop scoop bags.

“But 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.

“Leaving a bag full of poo on the beach will result in preserved excrement, protected from the elements for years by the plastic bag which could take decades to break down.

“We don’t want children picking up bags that break open and spill their contents, whether it’s fresh or ‘mature’. Dog poo is a source of high levels of bacteria and it can lead to reduced water quality and also pose a human health risk.”

And the irony is that despite the increase in poop scoop bags on our beaches, overall shore litter has dropped by 11 per cent in the UK as a whole between 2010 and 2011, and by 28 per cent in Scotland.

MCS says litter levels dropped in 2009 from an all time high in 2008 and rose again in 2010.

The charity says it hopes the drop of 28 per cent on Scottish beaches in 2011 will be the start of a downward trend. “Litter levels on our beaches are still worryingly high,” added Ms Saunders.

“Our September 2011 Beachwatch Big Weekend saw volunteers take to the beaches in driving wind and rain.

“In September 2012 we would like to see more volunteers and more beaches being cleaned to give us an even clearer picture of the state of Scotland’s beaches.”

MCS in Scotland has provided data towards the Scottish Marine Litter Strategy report and sits on the steering group.

She continued: “We are urging the Scottish Government to follow up on its commitment to producing a strategy by beginning a consultation on the report as soon as possible this year.

“We also welcome the forthcoming plastic bag consultation, which we hope will look at introducing a levy on single use plastic bags, similar to the one in Wales.”.

The Review asked Angus Council for its views on the subject of bags left lying, and a spokeswoman said: “We remind dog walkers that once they have cleaned up after their pets, the plastic bags should be disposed of properly in one of the designated bins, any litter bin, or in their own household waste bins.”