A DOG walker whose pet labradors love to pick up rubbish has inspired thousands around the world to wage war on plastic pollution.
Marion Montgomery, 54, and her labs Paddy and Ted (above) have become dedicated litter pickers in Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire.
The primary school teacher was signed off work sick for a year with shingles and as part of her recovery her GP encouraged her to keep walking the dogs.
Her old dog, Murphy, had a habit of picking up plastic bottles, and Marion began to collect them to put in the recycling.
She found it became second nature to pick up litter while walking her pets, and started a Facebook group, Paws On Plastic, which now has 14,000 members from as far away as Australia and Canada.
Mum-of-two Marion said: ‘My dogs have always picked up litter.
‘Murphy was my inspiration because he always picked up plastic bottles, so I would go to the park and come back with one.
‘So many dogs do that, it’s in their nature.
‘It’s something I’ve always done and you can’t really throw it back to the ground if your dog has been playing with it.
‘I found we were walking past the same litter every day.
‘You are scanning to make sure your dog isn’t going to pick up anything that would hurt them and then you think there are other animals out there that could be harmed.
‘It’s fantastic doing beach cleans but the tide comes back in and more litter is washed ashore, whereas dog owners are out every day, a few times a day.
‘If, as part of their everyday routine, you just pop a few bits in your poo bags and take it home for recycling, it makes a huge difference.’
Marion has already noticed the impact the group has had locally in Stonehaven, with barely any litter on the ground where once there was.
She added: ‘I’m just not somebody that likes to sit still.
‘Going from talking to children in school and being really active to then being stuck at home with no energy was dismal.
‘I got the idea for Paws On Plastic because the only thing I was doing was going for walks with my dog.
‘I would be fine for doing that for half an hour.’
There are now people from more than 60 countries active in the Facebook group.
Marion added: ‘The impact of disposable culture has been huge everywhere.
‘It’s so addictive — if you can get people to pick up a couple of bits they start to notice it and just can’t walk past it.
‘I worked out that if you pick up two pieces on two walks a day, members are very close to picking up 20million pieces a year.
‘That’s around 1,500 pieces a year each person would have picked up, so it has a huge effect.
‘I would like it to just be a normal part of dog walking, or all walking.
‘The more people see it, the more it becomes normalised and there comes a point where we all have to take responsibility.’