2018 will be the year of plogging. In fact, it is only this year that the term has been adopted internationally to indicate the practice of collecting waste whilst jogging. The word “plogging” comes from the Swedish verb “plockaapp,” that means to pick up. It has been used in Sweden since 2016 to describe runners armed with gloves and bags that clean roads and parks from abandoned waste, combining physical exercise with respect for the environment.
Plogging has become popular thanks to Instagram. In the last two years more that 4.000 pictures have been posted with the hashtag #plogging, hand in hand with an increasing number of campaigns worldwide focusing on the prevention of marine litter. Plogging is attractive because it’s easy: all you need is your running gear and a plastic bag. Running and squatting to pick-up rubbish from the ground makes one feel fit and useful for the environment at the same time.
In Italy Roberto Cavallo, environmental activist and expert on waste, cottoned on to this idea and started the “Keep Clean and Run” initiative. Covering three regions in Northern Italy, he ran more than a marathon a day collecting litter and meeting people in schools and local councils, from high up in the mountains to down by the sea. “The idea was to focus people’s attention on the phenomena of littering, focusing on mountain and sea ecosystems, raising awareness on the fact that 70% of sea pollution originates inland,” explains Cavallo. After three editions of the run in Italy, and a documentary on the subject by the Italian film-maker Mimmo Calopresti, in 2018, “Keep Clean and Run” became “Keep Clean and Ride,” where Cavallo rode his bicycle for 1000 kilometres, collecting litter from Bari to Padova, along the Adriatic coast and inland.
2015, Roberto Cavallo with Luca Mercalli at Avigliana
His initiative inspired Spanish environmentalists, especially Catalans, who organised the Ultra Clean Marathon. The format is the same as the Italian run: two eco-athletes, Albert Bosch and Nicole Ribera, run a marathon a day for 7 days with the objective of collecting as much waste as possible. Both the Italian and the Spanish initiative are part of Let’s Clean Up Europe, a European Community campaign to involve local citizens in clean up actions.
With regards to Northern Europe, plogging is spreading to Sweden’s neighbouring countries: Denmark and Finland. Already popular for his “higgy,” meaning the pursuit of happiness through simple daily actions, Denmark has promptly adopted this initiative. For example, in the city of Næstved the local running club organises weekly runs in the forest to collect litter. “We use social media to coordinate and to report the presence of waste, and then every Tuesday we organise a run to collect it,” says one of the organisers, Klaus Christian, to the local television ØST. Today more than 2500 Danes have joined the Facebook group TrailSkrald: “We noticed there was a lot of rubbish where we run” explained the group co-founder Kenneth Andersen. “Instead of blaming other people we decided to use our hands and actually to do something about it.”