Cleethorpes’ Beach Clean Up Day: What We Found

Cleethorpes’ Beach Clean Up

On Friday 16th September 2016, volunteers from around Lincolnshire and Yorkshire descended upon Cleethorpes Beach for The Marine Conservation Society’s annual ‘Beach Watch’ event. The event was part of a joint enterprise between Keep Britain Tidy’s Beach and River Care team, VANEL and Anglian Water. For the last 23 years, ‘Beach Watch’, a national beach clean and litter picking surveying programme, has brought people from all over the country together with the simple aim of caring for and protecting their coastline.

Despite the weather forecast being particularly dismal, around 20 people turned out for the beach clean-up event, donning wellies, litter pickers and high vis jackets. The team were able to litter pick across a substantial stretch of beach close to Thorpe Park car park for an hour and a half before the heaven’s finally opened.

During the clean-up, the team found an array of rubbish and discarded  items strewn along the beach such as plastic bottle tops, wrappers,  lolly pop sticks, cigarette butts, flip flops, socks, and strangely enough, underwear. The total amount of waste collected at the beach clean amounted to 20 black bags and weighed a whopping 60 kilograms. Also in abundance on the beach was one particularly nasty offender, that on the one hand it is annoying if trodden in, and on the other, poses a substantial risk to the health and safety of beach users; Dog Poo! We found over nine kilograms of the stuff on the stretch of beach that we covered. Surprisingly, the vast majority of dog poo that we found had been bagged. Whilst it is encouraging to see that many dog owners who are walking their dogs on Cleethorpes’ Beach are thinking ahead and taking poo bags with them, it is in no way a responsible method of discarding dog waste. Leaving a bag full of poo on the beach will result in preserved excrement, protected from the elements for years, in a plastic bag which could take years and years to break down. And even when it does start to break down, small pieces of the bag can find their way into the water and pose a risk to marine life.

It’s also worth remembering that just because you have gone to the ‘trouble’ of bagging your dog’s waste, that doesn’t mean it will stay bagged indefinitely. This is particularly worrying when you consider the health risk dog poo poses to beach users, and in particular, children. Dog poo contains parasites, bacteria and viruses that can be harmful or potentially deadly to humans and other dogs. It is estimated that a single gram of dog waste contains up to 23 million faecal coliform bacteria. This is known to cause cramps, diarrhoea, stomach upsets and serious kidney disorders in human beings. Likewise, parasites such as roundworms can be spread from dogs to humans through contact with infected faeces. In most cases people infected with roundworm larvae show no symptoms or have only mild symptoms. However, in rare cases, the larvae can infect organs such as the liver, lungs, eyes or brain and can lead to seizures, breathing difficulties and even permanent vision loss.

Should a child find a bag of dog poo whilst digging a hole or building a sandcastle, they may inquisitively pick it up, at which point the bag could split open and release its contents. They may get it on their hands, wipe it on their clothes or the ground and later put their hands in their mouth, causing them to become ill. Equally, if the contents of the bag were to come into contact with any open cuts on the child’s skin, this could lead to a serious infection. People have lost limbs or even died because of a cut coming into contact with dog poo! And don’t forget about the risk dog poo, can cause to other dogs on the beach. Canine Parvovirus is a highly contagious viral disease that can be passed from one dog to another through contact with infected faeces. Unvaccinated dogs and puppies, whose immune systems are still developing, are most at risk of contracting the parvovirus.  Even with the best veterinary care, the disease is often fatal.

Ultimately, it’s up to you whether you do the right thing and bag and dispose of your dog’s waste in an appropriate manner. But next time you can’t be bothered to walk to the nearest doggy bin, spare a thought for other people and dogs using the beach. It takes a lot longer to recover from a dog poo related infection than it does to pick it up and dispose of it properly.