Plogging: the new Scandi trend which promises to clean up the environment and get you fit

Written by: Kevin Stanley | Published:
Ploggers simply take a bag along with them on their run and pick up litter and recyclables that they find on their route

Scandinavian lifestyle crazes have been very popular in the UK over the past few years.

The Danes introduced us to the concept of hygge – a feeling of cosiness – while the Swedes gave us the idea of lagom (the feeling of having just the right amount of something). Now the Swedes have introduced us to another activity; less about a feeling, more about physical activity: plogging.

Plogging, initiated by Erik Ahlström and his business partner Ulf Mård, who set up the Plogga website dedicated to the activity, couldn’t be easier to do. The idea is that you pick up litter while out running, so participants can get fit while also helping to clean up their local town, city or countryside.

Ploggers simply take a bag along with them on their run and pick up litter and recyclables that they find on their route, to be later deposited in refuse or recycling as appropriate.

The added exertion of lunges and squats to pick up litter presumably increases the intensity of the workout and the calories burnt – similar to interval training – with periods of running followed by short rest periods while picking up litter.

Joakim Brodahl, head of operations at Hall Sverige Rent (Keep Sweden Clean), explains: “The word plogging is a combination of the two words ‘plocka’ – Swedish for pick up – and jogging. Erik Ahlström is a dedicated runner and a generally ‘outdoorsy’ person who wanted to do something about the litter problem – so he created plogging.”

A growing trend?

So how do the Scandinavians think the British will react to the idea of picking up litter while running? “We’re probably not best suited to say if you are too prim and proper to pick up litter, but of course we are tougher than the Brits,” says Brodahl.

“Safety regulations depend on the context and the situation, but of course if children, especially, are involved in collecting litter then safety is very important.”

In the UK the problem of litter has been with us for many years. Keep Britain Tidy has been around since the 1950s, and more recently, as a result of programmes such as Blue Planet II and general media coverage, plastic packaging waste specifically is getting more attention in the UK and across the world than ever before.

“Plogging isn’t exactly new,” says Chris Taylor, commercial manager at Clarity Environmental. “Many people already collect waste individually when walking and there are also community groups across the country that hold organised litter collections and beach cleans,” he says.

“Taking part in outdoor activities helps to increase our awareness of the environment. Plogging is the perfect combination as it helps the environment while keeping fit.”

The Scandi trend helps us to look after our local environment while keeping our attention on this important issue. The benefit of social media is that it allows participants to share efforts to help solve the problem globally.

Plogging has the advantage of being rather ‘hashtag-able’, which is encouraging social-media-savvy people to adopt the idea, helping the movement to grow.

“The #plogging hashtag is getting noticed, it’s extremely powerful and can be searched for globally in a matter of seconds,” says Taylor. “Used by the right influencers, the hashtag can encourage the younger generation to get involved in helping their local community and allowing the movement to grow.”

Plastic packaging waste is an issue which requires wide-scale involvement – from government to consumers, manufacturers and retailers. In recent months we have seen many large retailers responding to the public outcry on packaging waste by looking at how they can contribute to tackling this threat to our environment.

“The attention that plogging is receiving is positive as it continues to raise awareness of the impact that packaging waste can have on our environment, making sure we also do our bit as consumers, and keeping the pressure on decision-makers, retailers and manufacturers, encouraging them to take positive action,” says Taylor.

Of course, while plogging may be the craze of 2018, you don’t have to jog to help. Anyone that sees litter when outdoors can pick it up and dispose of it properly – preferably by recycling. “This is happening already, particularly among those that enjoy the outdoors,” says Taylor.

Clean Up Scotland

Across the border, the first official plogging event took place in Edinburgh in January, led by a Swedish woman who has run a jogging group for 10 years. "Scotland’s litter problem is at its worst in a decade,” says Carole Noble, operations director at Keep Scotland Beautiful.

“And while any clean-up activity is to be warmly welcomed, we need to fundamentally change the behavioural norms that mean too many people drop litter irresponsibly. We all need to take responsibility for our local environment.

"Plogging is a fantastic initiative from Keep Sweden Tidy – a fellow member of the Clean Europe Network. It’s a clever combination of getting fit with meaningful action to clean up local footpaths and open spaces.”

If you would like to take up plogging, or even litter-picking while walking, Keep Scotland Beautiful has #2minuteCleanUp bags that people can order to help make a difference.

“Our Clean Up Scotland Spring Clean starts in April and we will be encouraging jogging and running groups to get involved along with anyone else who just wants to walk and carry out more traditional clean-ups,” says Noble.

There is clearly a need for this sort of activity as there is a real problem with litter across the UK. Whether there are enough bins and on-the-go recycling facilities in towns and cities is debatable.

“Our latest published report, Local Environmental Quality in Decline, highlights a significant issue with litter in Scotland. We have recorded the worst levels ever in a decade, especially in our most deprived communities.

To tackle this problem we must consistently invest our time and resources in education and behaviour-change campaigns, enforcement and providing appropriate infrastructure,” says Noble.

Finally, only the need to address health and safety concerns remains. Anyone collecting litter must act with caution with regards to dirty or potentially harmful litter.

Some of this will simply be using a common-sense approach such as wearing suitable gloves, but for more information, anyone interested can go onto the Keep Scotland Beautiful website and take a look at the Clean Up Survey and Information Pack provided to all those who register events with Keep Scotland Beautiful.

The information pack includes useful health and safety information. “We haven’t developed any health and safety information specifically for plogging, but the same rules would apply and we would encourage event organisers and individuals partaking to carry out their own risk assessment and ensure that all appropriate measures are taken to keep participants safe,” advises Noble.

Picking up a few pieces of litter while out running might initially sound insignificant, but anyone picking up litter is making a genuine difference. Ploggers have posted pictures of their activities on Instagram and Twitter and it’s clear that they are helping. If the craze grows, it will make a huge difference across the world.

This material is protected by MA Business Ltd copyright.
See Terms and Conditions.


Please view our Terms and Conditions before leaving a comment.