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World Clean Up Day is in full swing in mid-September. An army of volunteers will be busy picking up litter. But what is the point of it?
This activity, popularised by the Swedes, is bizarrely but inventively named and known as: "plogging". A contraction of the English word "jogging" and the Swedish "plocka upp" (pick up), it consists of getting your leggings and trainers on and going for a run with a plastic bag in hand (which works just as effectively when fitness walking or hiking). Find any litter on the path? Bend your knees, pick up, and you're good to move on! Or, how to look after yourself AND the environment in one go.
Ecojogging (the other name for plogging) emerged in Scandinavia in the middle of the 2010s and has progressively spread far and wide. Volunteers around the world have started doing it during sports events or just during their own running sessions. In France, for example, a committed individual from Nantes (France) created a Facebook group called the RUN Eco Team in 2016. It currently numbers 15,000 members and organises several outings each month. It has had viral success: dozens of informal groups have formed in the wake of this pioneer, well shared by social networks. But not everybody's convinced… The activity irritates certain people and provokes certain amount of scepticism: "Why should I pick up other people's litter when I am being careful? Are you joking! ", "What, running with a plastic bag full of cigarette butts? No thanks! ", or even "Saving the planet by picking up two beer cans and three pieces of paper? Whatever next… ".
In essence, plogging absolves those who pollute from taking responsibility, stands in the way of enjoying running, and, to cap it all, doesn't change the state of the world.If these are legitimate reasons for doubting, it doesn't cancel out the benefit of doing the activity. It continues to attract enthusiasts, especially among young people. Because let's be honest: it is hard to deny that it makes sense and has an impact. In actual fact, there are even plenty of them…
It is modest, but real. A plogging session is "only" the collection of a bit of litter (we are often still talking in kilos) that amounts to pure and simply making as many environmental microaggressions disappear. Like this old plastic bag (a 450-year lifespan in nature) will no longer get in the way of a small tree's growth by the side of the road. This plastic cola bottle (100 to 1000 years) that will no longer leak small yet lethal doses of microplastics into the grass (before being washed away with rainwater towards... the ocean). Or even this cigarette butt (1 to 2 years) will not end up in a bird's stomach. When you stop to think, it is hard to find a more effective environmental act… It's mathematical: each piece of litter picked up is one less piece of pollution and a healthier environment than a minute ago.
Collecting waste in public spaces… can be seen. Which is a good thing! The more people who see it, the greater the impact will be. Plogging has real educational benefits. It is a way of showing others the example, inspiring them and sending a message to those who feel less concerned by the issue. In essence, it is about prevention: seeing someone sweating (literally!) when picking up litter, obviously, makes you think… Those observing will think twice about discarding a coke can, plastic wrapping or an old cigarette on the path. It might even tempt them to give it a go…
Let's be honest… yes, picking up other people's litter is a political statement!It is a way of taking action for the greater good and personally committing to a fight that concerns us all: limiting the climate and environmental crisis. Small gestures sometimes lead to big impacts: one that, for example, stops what specialists call "the triangle of inaction". This diagram, popularised by Pierre Peyretou, a professor in low carbon economics, shows how each of the three elements it is made up of (people – company – public authorities) play the blame game when it comes to combating climate change. "Why should I sort my waste when multinationals mass pollute? " rants the individual. "The State wants us to make our processes greener, but what is it actually doing? " grumble the companies. "It is up to people to get to grips with the issues, which is all we are asking", says the latter shifting the blame. Consequently, no one budges, and the disaster is slowly escalating. Sometimes, it's enough to take a small step like the one we are talking about to break this vicious circle.
The climate crisis has left some of us paralysed or depressed, faced with the scale of the effort required. There is so much to do, we sometimes think… where do we start? Plogging provides you (among plenty of others) with an answer to this question. Psychologists explain by the way that small actions of this kind are the best remedy to deal with the growing phenomenon of eco-anxiety, the negative emotions generated by the depressing spectacle of a planet close to exhaustion.
Plogging is accessible to everyone and everywhere (beaches, mountains, parks, countryside…), allowing you to finish off a run heavy-legged but more light-hearted.
The initiative is a powerful way of getting people to bond. The events organised around plogging bring together a community of enthusiastic people happy to spend time together with a shared sense of purpose. The idea isn't to get stuck with a chore... but about having fun together doing something useful.
Don't get me wrong: we know that plogging alone will not save the planet. We have to rethink the whole waste production/collection chain. Less packaging, less plastic, more sorting, raising greater awareness, etc. We have to attack it from all sides. But one doesn't exclude the other, and giving your legs a workout all while doing good to the environment, is ultimately, an excellent and wonderful idea. So... ready to give it a go?