Dog walkers across the country are being urged to pick up litter as part of a new campaign to tackle the mountain of plastic pollution contaminating the environment.
The initiative is the brainchild of Marion Montgomery, a primary school teacher from Stonehaven, whose inspiration came from her dogs fetching discarded bottles while out on daily walks.
It was her dog Murphy, who died in 2015, who first planted the idea of collecting the trash. He was always finding waste items and bringing them back, forcing her to decide between tossing them back on the ground or disposing of them responsibly.
When her current dog, a labrador called Paddy, continued the habit she decided to recruit other pet owners to help clean up the landscape.
“A lot of dogs pick up plastic bottles,” she said.
“But once your dog has picked it up you can’t really throw it away, so most people will take it with them and put it in a bin.
“It’s like dogs have been telling us to do this for years. “I’ve just given it a name and encouraged folk to do a bit more.”
Named Paws on Plastic, the campaign calls for people to pick up at least two pieces of rubbish - or more if they can - every time they take their animals out for exercise.
She added: “The strength of Paws on Plastic is its simplicity. Dog owners are already out there walking their dogs every day. We see the litter. We have a spare bag in our pocket and it just takes a second to pick up a couple of pieces. No extra time or effort is required.
“With around nine million dogs in the UK alone, just imagine the impact if we all did our own small bit.”
Plastic pollution is a major problem globally – estimates suggest up to 12 million tonnes of synthetic material ends up in oceans every year.
It takes hundreds of years to break down and causes significant harm to wildlife.
Plastic debris causes the deaths of more than a million seabirds and at least 100,000 marine mammals annually.
Environmental campaigners commended the movement but said more must be done to cut out unnecessary plastic.
“Any initiative to remove the plastic from our beaches and seas is to be welcomed,” said Calum Duncan, head of conservation Scotland for the Marine Conservation Society.
“However, whilst we must all keep doing all we can to clear up the plastic waste already washing up, this is only a symptom of the wider problem of over-consumption in a linear economy. There is still a long, long way to go until the cause of leakage of plastics into the sea is stopped.”
The campaign has already attracted more than 1,000 supporters across the country.