PACKETS of cheese and cat food are some of the latest items to have washed up onto Dorset beaches.

The products are suspected to be from the same cargo that led to thousands of cigarettes being washed ashore Chesil Beach earlier this week.

A spokeswoman for the Maritime Coastguard Agency said: “We did have reports of a number of pet food packets that have arisen on Ringstead Beach.

“A collection has been arranged with Dorset County Council. We have had no further sightings of containers.”

Containers were lost from a ship as it crossed the Bay of Biscay in stormy conditions.

The cargo was being shipped from Rotterdam to Sri Lanka.

The MCA recovered a container on Monday evening and brought it into Portland Harbour.

The spokeswoman added: “We do believe as it was towed in, the water may have washed out some of it.”

Ringstead Bay Beach falls under the remit of the National Trust and the Crown Estate.

A spokesman for the National Trust West Dorset said: “If we do have anything that washes up on our beaches, we will deal with it accordingly in liaison with the local authorities.”

Conservationist Steve Trewhella said there was a 'much bigger picture' to look at and that this was a 'Dorset-wide problem'.

Mr Trewhella said a lot of litter was still visible on Kimmeridge Bay, including pet food and cigarettes.

He said: "There's still a very high number. I could go onto the beach now and pick up a 100 cigarette packets.

"The pet food is still intact which shows how heavy grade the plastic bags are."

He added: "If they are at Kimmeridge Bay, they are going to be at all of the inaccessible bays."

My Trewhella said people have too often been complacent about marine litter and pollution.

He said: "The litter situation is alarming. This is adding to the already unthinkable amount of debris and plastic we have on the beach."

Marc Smith, an officer at Chesil Beach Centre, said Chesil Beach had been right at the forefront of three environmental tragedies in the last year.

Speaking about the latest items to wash ashore, he said: “They are wrapped in plastic and in the end that is more plastic and rubbish that is finding itself into the marine environment.

“We don’t know what else was in the containers. Is it something more dangerous or more harmful?"

Storm Wallace, environmental campaigner, suggested there could be more items to come.

She said: “There’s something coming in. There’s a big white patch of something. There are a lot of seagulls all sitting on it. It could be more cargo.”

Ms Wallace, 29, has organised a beach clean-up for Chesil Beach which will take place on Sunday.

She added: “I’ve come down this morning to work out what we need and how many skips we need. There’s lots of beach litter.”

Dorset Police has advised members of the public to call 101 if they find further washed up container contents.

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Tackling cargo waste

The Dorset Waste Partnership (DWP) is working with The Crown Estate, Government agencies and the local community to clean up lost cargo and litter washed up on Dorset beaches.

The DWP – seven Dorset councils working together – is providing staff to collect cigarettes, pet food and other goods lost from a cargo ship during recent storms.

Council litter-pickers began clearing the Chesil Cove area on Thursday and will move further along the beach this weekend, collecting both cargo and general litter.

The Crown Estate, the landowner of Chesil Beach, is supporting the project through its Marine Stewardship Fund.

Cargo is being sorted for insurance purposes before being taken for incineration and destruction at an energy-from-waste plant in Southampton.

DWP streetscene manager Karyn Punchard said: “We are working on behalf of The Crown Estate to tackle this major clean-up.  We will also work with other landowners and loss adjusters to clean up other privately owned beaches.

“We would like to thank community beach clean organisers and all the volunteers for their recent efforts to help restore our globally important coastline to its full glory.”

Gary Thompson, Coastal Manager for The Crown Estate, said: “Marine litter is a continuing problem affecting UK beaches, landowners and coastal communities so we are keen to support clean-up efforts when beaches under our ownership are badly affected."

HM Revenue & Customs and UK Border Force have agreed that volunteers wishing to help with the clean-up this weekend can pick up items of cargo for disposal together with general litter.  The DWP will clear Chesil Cove of any bagged waste on Monday morning.

The Food Standards Agency and the Maritime and Coastguard Agency have confirmed that there are no declared toxic or dangerous substances from the cargo ship. However, volunteers should take extra care when picking up litter as a wide variety of debris has been washed up.