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Tackling litter one dog walk at a time

How can a few people and their dogs do anything about the climate emergency? The answer to this question lies in the Scottish town of Stonehaven. This might not be the first place you would think of when you are wanting to save the planet. However, it is the town where Marion Montgomery had a deceptively simple idea which now has members all over the world. The idea is this – most dog owners take their dogs for a walk each day, some of them would be willing to pick up two pieces of litter. The Paws on Plastic Facebook group and Twitter encourages members to post photos of the dogs (lovely) and the litter (not so lovely). There are now over 15,000 members just on Facebook and its estimated that over 28 million pieces of litter a year are picked up.

So, what happened when Ros Oswald from Carbon Neutral Aldbourne joined with her trusty Labrador, Molly?

“It’s been a revelation. I now know where litter is likely to be in Aldbourne and what type it’s likely to be. I know where the cider drinkers hang out and who does the lottery. I have found everything from plastic bottles to a glass-topped patio table and chairs. I have seen dogs and dog owners from all over the world doing exactly the same thing and finding such things as a dentist’s chair, fishing equipment and a variety of underwear. The group is supportive, positive and completely non-competitive, every piece of litter collected is celebrated and the dog photos make the litter picking so much more enjoyable.

Molly using some fly tipped tyres as an impromptu agility course!

More importantly, litter picking has made me think about why the litter is there in the first place. I send packaging back to manufacturers, tell them where I found it and ask them about their policies. Ginsters and B&Q actively explained to me what they are doing and what the Government needs to do to help. Marks & Spencer (less convincingly) sent me a very large document setting out policies on everything from the Environment to Anti-Slavery.

As a group, we encourage each other to spread the word and have conversations with people we meet. As a direct result, more people are collecting litter and more people know about the harm that litter can do. Young people are being supported and encouraged.

Of course, it is essential to think about safety when litter picking, especially in a pandemic. Here are the most important points:

  • Tell someone where you are going and stay in mobile contact
  • Use gloves or a litter picker and clean them after use
  • Wash hands before and afterwards
  • Don’t pick up sharps or syringes

Whenever I see fly-tipping I report it to Wiltshire Council using their MyWilts reporting system.

On a positive note, Molly and I do enjoy the fresh air and the beautiful views around the village.”

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