A happy Plogger: why I love Plogging and how you can too

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By Stuart

Avid runner. 10x marathons. Daily 10kms. Award-winning journalist when not moving (about me)

There’s a growing community of people who are getting fit while doing good.

I joined the movement about 5 years ago and am now a self-confessed “Plogger”, the name for someone who “plogs” or goes “plogging”. That is, combining jogs with collecting trash or litter.

The soul-nourishing activity shows that one person’s trash is another person’s workout.

In this article, I’ll share my plogging experience so far and some tips on how you can get involved too. But first, some plogging basics…

What is a Plogger?

A blend of two words, a “plogger” is somebody who combines their jogging routine with plocka, the Swedish word for “to pick”. Exercise and environmentalism, in one.

Although a plogger is typically refers to an individual who cleans up discarded trash while running or jogging, it is also loosely applied to other outdoor pursuits, such as a walking, surfing or rollerblading. A feel-good, do-good healthy lifestyle.

What is the origins of Plogging?

Swedish marathoner Erik Ahlström coined the term “plogging” and started the trend in 2016, looking to combine his love of running with a way to help the planet. He began picking up other people’s litter on his solo street runs in Stockholm, and others soon followed suit.

In his own words: “It became like a treasure hunt. We were running, laughing and having fun. Others saw us and said they wanted to join in. Then the whole thing just went bananas.”

The now-global movement gained popularity via social media and organized plogging events, including on Earth Day and World Cleanup Day. Some 2,000,000 people are estimated to plog daily. It’s even been made an official word in the Oxford English Dictionary.

My plogging experience so far – an accidental plogger

Why I plog – more compassionate and adventure-filled runs

First, let’s start with why I run.

For me, running is pure escapism. Helping to interrupt the superficial flow of everyday life.

I do so daily, often running in the morning.

Running and jogging helps me to set and accomplish new challenges outside of work, switch off, and keep fit. Plogging elevates things further by transforming my relationship with nature and my local area. Adding another dimension to workouts.

I’ve incorporated litter-picking into my regular runs and my travels for 5+ years now. Doing so on beaches, in woodlands, parks, bike trails, university campuses. When running Hadrians Wall, historical sites (e.g. Kirkham Priory circular route or Holy Island circular route), and running in the city centre before the tourists and everybody else flocks in. Cleaning up on daytime or night jogs.

Clean-up of Little Knavesmire, York, UK
Clean-up of Little Knavesmire, York, UK

Plogging has taken me to new places. Corners of my hometown, York, I wouldn’t have otherwise visited. I often build my runs around it, meaning they’re far more varied and interesting.

I’ve lost count of the trash bags I’ve filled. It’s surprisingly easy to do so. Once you’re more in tune into your surroundings and picking up trash, you’ll be shocked how much packaging has been discarded or worse, fly-tipped. But by doing something about it, what would otherwise be dispiriting becomes uplifting.

When I speak to other ploggers, they seem to share the same experience. It’s a tiny act but we’re made larger by plogging.

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How I got started as a plogger – feeling compelled to act

It all started when I traded road runs for off-road trail running in the UK.

I’d spot litter build up on my regular routes – fast food packaging, beer bottles, cigarette packets, items of clothing, yesterday’s picnic, plastic bags, and much larger items, such as abandoned bicycles and white goods.

I’d always had a low tolerance to litter, but being on a run I hurried by. Then one day the guilt took over. I put what I could in my running rucksack. And truth be told, doing good felt good!

One accidental act of plogging, become two, then three, then most runs.

I was hooked.

My largest plogging haul was 5 trash bags in a single field. Collected the morning after an illegal party near my house during one of the COVID lockdowns. Kids had littered the park with hundreds of beer bottles, fast food wrappers, vapes – you name it. It didn’t stop them doing it again a few nights later but at least it got some temporary respite.

Plogging while running in York after an illegal party on Little Knaversmire (5 bin bags later!)
Plogging while running in York after an illegal pandemic lockdown party on Little Knavesmire (5 bin bags later!)

There’s a large number of reasons why people pick up garbage while jogging or take part in organized plogging clean-ups. These include: taking pride in your neighborhood; protecting wildlife and the environment; community spirit; tackling plastic waste; feeling like you’re making a real difference; and of course fun physical exercise.

11 benefits of plogging activity

  1. Protects wildlife and the environment
  2. Cleans up your local area
  3. Boosts community spirit
  4. Adds variation to your training
  5. Strengthens your upper body muscles
  6. Burns 10% more calories than running
  7. Adds extra motivation to exercise
  8. Meeting other runners and new jogging partners
  9. Discover new running spots
  10. Easy and inexpensive to get started
  11. Helps you to run without music

Essential plogging kit – start small, stay safe

  1. Gloves
  2. Hand sanitizer
  3. Trash bag
  4. Hydration pack
  5. Mobile phone (post plogging pictures with the hashtag#Plogging)

Ready to start plogging?

You can find other ploggers in Facebook plogging groups or organizations such as Go Plogging and Trash Free Trails.

Alternatively, create your own event or round up your friends.

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Get more from your runs. More joy. Better adventures. Faster times.