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As we struggle to cope with rising levels of plastic in our oceans, Ellina Webb looks at a new initiative involving ‘man’s best friend’.  

A few weeks ago the annual Open golf tournament took over the TV and millions of people around the world watched Francesco Molinari become the first Italian to claim the championship title.

What the majority of these people might have missed however, was a small, almost insignificant clip before the Sunday morning tee-off which panned to show some dogs swimming off the course beach.

Not only were these dogs having the time of their lives, they were actually participating in an extremely important task as part of the ocean clean-up efforts that are happening all over the world – both officially and unofficially.

Ocean clean ups target beaches and oceans to reduce the litter that is impacting our ecosystems.

On the official Ocean Clean Up website they state their aim is to clean up 50% of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in 5 years. This garbage patch is 1 of 5 ocean garbage patches circulating the globe which I urge you to Google for information.

Other clean up charities include 4 Ocean and Plastic Oceans both of which aim to reduce the amounts of ocean plastic and raise awareness in order to bring people together and create a global movement.

However, ocean and beach clean up’s don’t have to be an exclusively human endeavour, and as we saw at The Open, animals can get involved too.

So who are these eco-pups and why should we encourage more dogs and owners to get involved to make a difference to our planet?

Are dogs the future of ocean clean ups?

Ellina Webb Ellina Webb Senior Marketing Executive at Mitsubishi Electric

Lila the Dog

Making a difference to the coast of Florida is Lila, a black Labrador whose previous venture was as a lobster diver.

Lila now drives for plastic as part of the 4 Ocean project which is trying to rid the ocean and shoreline of plastic litter.

4 Oceans organise beach clean ups with volunteers and by September 2017 had removed 75,000 pounds of rubbish from the ocean. They also used the materials found to make bracelets, helping them to fund their expenses.

Lila’s contribution to the efforts includes diving to collect discarded plastic bottles, bags and other litter. If you want to see Lila in action, you can watch some of her diving videos via YouTube.

Koda the Dog

Back in England, a man called Wayne Dixon began a 7,000 mile hike in 2017 in order to walk the distance of the British coastline and pick up every piece of rubbish he discovered on his way.

His companion on this journey was his Northern Inuit dog called Koda who picks up the litter alongside him.

Since Wayne and Koda took off, Wayne has worked closely with charities such as Mind and Keep Britain Tidy and has proven how one person really can make a huge difference to an issue such as ocean and coastal clean ups.

You can follow Wayne and Koda via their Twitter page.

Tubby the Dog

Tubby hit the headlines in 2011 when he entered the Guinness Book of Records for the most bottles recycled by a dog (26,000). In fact over his lifetime he collected 50,000 bottles before his death at age 13 in 2016.

Tubby was an asset to the local community, Wales and his local council where he served as a recycling mascot and lived with his owner Sandra Gilmore.

In fact with his World Record, he had his 5 minutes of fame on TV shows such as The One Show where he was dubbed the worlds ‘Greenest Dog’.

Are dogs the future of ocean clean ups?

What Lila, Koda and Tubby all have in common is that they brought attention to an issue that everyone needs to be talking about. Cleaning up and recycling ocean trash and litter in general is a job we should all be involved in, no matter what species we are.

The ocean has over 5 trillion pieces of plastic in it which is now having serious effects on wildlife.

Over the past 5 years numerous charities and projects have popped up around the world to begin our movement into cleaning up our planet and the more awareness we raise, the more we will be mindful of our actions.

I believe dogs will continue to help with this narrative as we see innovations like the bottle recycling machine that turns plastic bottles into food for stray dogs. This is because dogs are one of the most loved pets in the world and one of the best animals for a human to connect with on an emotional level.

After all, with photos of dogs increasing social content for brands by well over 100%, and with dog owners posting photos of their dogs on average 6 times a week, the power of the dog is unquestionable – so here’s to more ‘ocean clean pups’! 

Ellina Webb is a Senior Marketing Executive at Mitsubishi Electric