In 2016, Stockholm-based Erik Ahlström noticed piles of garbage lying on the roads while on his commute to work. Unpicked for a week, a frustrated Erik decided to clear the garbage himself. His decision to pick up litter from the streets of Sweden stirred a global movement. People were soon seen jogging while picking up trash. In months, the world was introduced to a new movement called ‘plogging’.
A portmanteau word formed from Swedish verbs plocka upp (pick up) and jogga (jog), plogging is an activity wherein people jog or brisk walk while simultaneously picking up trash from their surroundings. Though it originated as an act to maintain sanitary conditions, plogging was soon recognised and widely embraced for its environmental and health benefits. Over the last few years, this has been an emerging trend in over 100 countries, and has been warmly adopted by various environment groups, athletes, sport enthusiasts, who plog regularly for the many benefits it offers.
Building a litter-free world
Widely identified as an activity beneficial to address plastic pollution, plogging encourages people (ploggers) to pick up litter to later segregate it. This allows for the proper disposal of biodegradable and non-biodegradable waste.
“When the movement started in India, we gave a fitness angle to it. People started doing it because it was a trend. Over the last five years, crores of people—who are not just cleaning the surroundings but are also pledging to not litter—have joined the movement,” says environmentalist Ripu Daman Bevli, who is referred to as the Plogging Ambassador of India.
Stressing on the importance of expanding the ambit of the movement to waste reduction, Bevli, who spearheads the Litter Free India campaign, says,“Our focus is on what happens after you clean a place. The change will take place at the grassroot level where we need to involve the locals in such cleanliness drives. The journey starts from that one little act of picking someone else’s litter.”
A number of Delhi-NCR college groups have also given the trend of plogging a nod. Anvita Bhatia (20), a student of Hansraj College, went plogging for the first time, with her team at Enactus and city-based environment organisation Ploggaindia, in July this year. “Although we were jogging for about an hour, it was not at all tiring but a rejuvenating experience. Various passers-by also joined us, and kept cheering us on while we plogged,” says Bhatia. Their team cleaned up a three-kilometres stretch from Delhi School of Social Work to Kamla Nehru Ridge, and collected five kg trash.
Pratiksha Yadav, a student of Shaheed Bhagat Singh College, who joined another plogging drive with Ploggaindia, says, “We went to South Delhi’s Jahanpanah City Forest for our drive. There was a lot of plastic waste—wrappers and plastic bottles—that we picked up.”
Dealing with a major problem
Solid waste management is a grave issue in cities like Delhi. Reportedly, this city generates more than 12,350 tonnes of solid waste per day. Two—Bhalswa and Okhla—out of the Capital’s three dumping grounds have already been declared exhausted. The Ghazipur landfill, on the other hand, is as tall as the Qutub Minar. A major component of the waste produced is single-use plastic, which is non-biodegradable and turns into microplastic thus polluting the environment. “A beach cleanup does not mean a clean beach. Thus, the only way to achieve clean surroundings is by stopping littering,” concludes Bevli.
What a 'Waste'
- Delhi reportedly generates more than 12,350 tonnes of solid waste per day
- Bhalswa and Okhla landfills have been declared exhausted while Ghazipur is apparently a landfill as tall as the Qutub Minar