Help the environment... it’s time to go plogging

LIZ CONNOR takes to the streets to embrace the eco-friendly Swedish trend of plogging and finds an alarming amount of rubbish at every turn
Help the environment... it’s time to go plogging
Plogging: Picking up litter while jogging.

SCANDINAVIAN lifestyle concepts have created something of a buzz over the last few years.

First we had hygge — the word the Danes use to explain the ritual of slowing down and enjoying the cosy elements of home life — and then came Lagom, the idea of striking the perfect balance between work and play.

But the latest Scandi buzzword is less about lighting Jo Malone candles, slipping on cashmere socks and sacking off your pub plans so you can get an early night, and more about doing your bit for the fight against plastic waste.

It’s called ‘plogging’ and basically involves picking up litter as you jog through the streets of your local town or city. The idea is you get a good cardio workout and help to look after the environment at the same time.

I have to admit that I have yet to actually see one of these ploggers out and about, litter bag in-hand, picking up detritus as they go.

As someone who is increasingly trying to consider my impact on the environment, I decided it was time to lace up my trainers and join vegan footwear brand Vivobarefoot (vivobarefoot.com) on their first plogging mission.

The group was led by Maja Tesch, Swim Run champion and a veteran plogger. “It was started by a friend of mine in the countryside in Sweden,” she explains. “He was really angry that he found so much litter when he was out running, so he started to put it in the bin as he went along.

“After a while he said ,’OK, I’m out jogging and picking up litter - that’s plogging,’ because in Swedish, ‘ploga’ means picking. That’s when the hashtag started.

“It really kicked off because it was so simple — he sort of made plogging into a sport. When I was out running, I just started using the hashtag #plogging and it helped with my intervals.

“For example, every time I ran up the hill, I’d collect one piece of litter and kept track of how many intervals I’d done by counting the pieces of litter.”

Plogging has now been hashtagged more than 17,000 times on Instagram, with users uploading flatlay images of the rubbish they manage to pick up at the end of a run. A lot of people just add the litter picking element to their usual run routines, but there are whole teams that get together and take part in the craze.

Keen to get started, we grabbed some gardening gloves, a tote bag each and set off on our 7k run.

Our route was aided by the fact the street sweepers had already been out at the crack of dawn and tackled the worst of the night’s mess, but the amount of litter tumbling around, shoved into hedges and hidden in alleyways was frankly alarming.

Our biggest enemy was plastic water bottles, many had been crushed by cars or pedestrian footfall and were skidding around the pavements seemingly unnoticed.

“Every second, 9,500,000kg of plastic is produced globally and 60% is used for non-disposable products like plastic bags, straws and takeaway cups,” Tesch explained before our run. Being part of the pick-up effort really makes that fact hit home.

The overriding feeling you’ll get from a morning of plogging is that humans are pretty selfish. Takeaway cartons of half-eaten chips smeared with ketchup lay strewn on the floor, the morning’s coffee cups were rolling around on the pavement and there were straws from last night’s drinks everywhere — picking up each one makes you wonder who could so churlishy chuck it on the ground in first place.

It’s also incredible to see how many strange looks you get from commuters who are confused to see people picking up rubbish right by their feet. Clearly, voluntary litter picking is still something people view as kind of weird and kooky.

One of the cool things about plogging is you can also do it as a family. We had a little plogger with us (aged around seven) who loved the challenge of scouring the streets. At one point, she even excitedly pulled out some ‘treasure’ from her pocket — a discarded badge she’d found on the floor. Plogging really teaches the children the importance of looking after their local environment, although you need to keep an eye out for sharp or dangerous objects.

Fitness-wise you can get a pretty good sweat on too. Obviously it depends how seriously you take it, but according to my running app, I managed to burn around 400 calories during my light jog. You’re constantly bending and squatting to pick things up from the ground too — which makes it a good exercise for toning the glutes and building the upper body area.

If you’re keen to get a sweat on, you can always make it into a fast and furious interval run, like Tesch, and sprint between each piece of litter you manage to find. Best of all, if you’re skint and want to get fit, it’s an easy way to make running a little bit less monotonous.

The final haul, after an hour of running, was quite sickening — 20 of us had managed to pick up a bulging bag each.

Walking home later that day, I couldn’t help but be repulsed by the amount of litter surrounding my home — and once you start see it, you really can’t unsee it. Thankfully, I won’t be turning a blind eye again.

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