THE organisers of Bournemouth Marathon Festival have been told to step up their act after it was discovered goody bags handed out to runners after last weekend's events were packed with plastic packaging.

Items were spotted strewn across floors and walls in the Lower Gardens during the popular two-day festival.

Thousands took part in the various races, which culminated in the full marathon on Sunday.

All runners received a bag or box, depending on the event, with various items after they had crossed the finish line.

This included energy bars, drinks and an event t-shirt.

Sue Coates, who volunteers with community litter action group Dorset Devils, said it was disappointing to see so much plastic in the hand outs.

After walking along the seafront Ms Coates said she found "very little" rubbish on the beaches.

However, when she arrived at Pier Approach and walked into the Lower Gardens she could not believe the amount of plastic that had been dumped in various locations.

"As I walked into the gardens there was just a sea of rubbish," Ms Coates said.

"From talking to people who had taken part I realised most of this stuff was coming from the goody bags that were being handed out.

"Pretty much everything in them was wrapped in plastic.

"A lot of the bottles I found on the floor had hardly been drunk from, but for me the flimsy wrapping is even more concerning because it can blow away very easily."

Ms Coates said action by Dorset Devils in previous years had successfully led to marathon organisers no longer handing out medals to runners in plastic wrapping.

She suggested providing water containers to fill up bottles or using cans of water, fresh fruit rather than energy bars and more visible recycling bins specifically for the marathon weekend.

"I couldn't really believe an event that is so good and so well-organised, which has taken place for quite a few years now, could not think about the effect on the environment, especially with the finish by the sea," Ms Coates added.

"It is a shame for a big event because they would set a really good example."