What is ‘plogging’?— It is a combination of jogging and picking trash. Plog comes from the Swedish word plocka upp, meaning ‘pick up.’ What started as a fun activity in Sweden in 2016, has quickly caught the fancy of millions around the world. The growing concern on plastic pollution and litter on the roads has made this activity not only fun but also an important step to create awareness.
With the increased usage of plastic in various forms of business and the world’s inability to deal with the growing hazards caused by it, plastic pollution has become one of the most difficult problems to manage. More specifically for developing and underdeveloped parts of the world, where garbage collection is mostly inefficient. Mostly trash ends up as landfills or gets mixed up with soil, from where it travels to oceans by rivers. Hundreds of animals die every day due to the consumption of plastic. Traces of plastics have been found in human bodies as well.
If there was one solution to solve this problem, it has to be through increased awareness. Plog Run can be one such initiative towards achieving the objective. The concept not only promotes a social cause but also adds the element of fun, interspersed with exercise and fitness. All important attributes of a healthy life.
On October 2, 2019, the birthday of Mahatma Gandhi, I got an opportunity to participate in one of the Plog runs. Organized by India Plog Run an initiative by United Way India, the event was conducted in about 50 cities. Courtesy to the sponsors the event was free for the participants. With encouragement from the government sports ministry, encouragement from celebrities and the ongoing national movement Swacch Bharat, the event seems to have been received well.
Our group was of about 60 people and it was equipped with some necessary embellishments like hand gloves, a brightly colored orange jacket, mouth mask and most importantly garbage bag. After a few dramatics, selfies, and groupies, the volunteers helped us with some stretching and instructions. The task was straight forward, need to pick any plastic waste lying on the streets through a 3 kilometers stretch.
On my part, I concentrated on the small plastics items which are typically mixed with mud and missed out by the sanitation workers. These small things could be about a few inches which included picking and finding the pieces of straw, spoons, pan-masala & gutkha wrappers, chewing gum.
It was really a mixed bag of emotions – doing it in a group had moments of jokes and laughter, but going through this grind itself was both deplorable and satisfactory. Many questions came to my mind – Why we have to partake this activity? Why don’t citizens take care of these things themselves? What stops us from not allowing this waste getting mixed with our ecosystem and creating havoc? On one occasion, couple of 10-year-old boys joined and helped us picking some trash, when my friend informed that only plastic needs to be collected, for the next 10 minutes they picked up all they could, asking “Bhiaya ye lo, Bhaiya ye wala (Brother take this one, Brother is this applicable?)”. What an amazing feeling, not only they contributed to this activity, but probably they will know (at least for some time) that plastic is bad. On another occasion, one Ola driver waiting for his passenger, seeing this big group in their branded shoes and track pants picking trash, asked me what is was about. On understanding the concept, he gave his full praise and acknowledged that this will help create amazing awareness.
India generates around 25,940 tonnes of plastic waste every day according to government figures. In about 2 hours and with 63 people in the group, we were able to collect about 200 kilos of that waste.
Walking on the roads any other day and seeing traces of trash on the sides is just an occasion to curse society. Doing this exercise was a very different experience which gave us not only a humongous sense of satisfaction but also raised many questions to ponder over the evil that we need to fight together for a safe tomorrow – plastic pollution!