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The Dirty Work of Plogging Can Help Race Directors Clean Up

6 Feb, 2019

By: Mary Helen Sprecher

There’s running. There’s race walking. And now, there’s plogging. And this new trend – picking up litter and recyclables while out running – is catching on in a big way. In fact, it could be your next Earth Day event.

Plogging, invented in uber-eco-friendly Sweden, has already caught on in the U.S. in a big way. The principle is simple – runners carry trash bags and wear disposable gloves and (safely) pick up debris such as cans, plastic bottles and so on. It’s a fun, easy way to leave the course better than it was originally.

And plogging could be a great way to get some extra bodies out there on the course, particularly for a first-time event. After all, who doesn’t want to have a part in an event that has an immediately visible benefit? And when it’s tied in with Earth Day celebrations, it’s an even more enticing prospect. (Earth Day, by the way, falls on Monday, April 22 but plogging events taking place the weekend prior could be an excellent promotion.)

Plogging (or plalking, for those who walk and pick up trash) can be done in any setting, note enthusiasts, from roads to beaches to trails to parks.

Plogging already has a cult following. In fact, according to Self Magazine, on Instagram alone, there were more than 10,000 posts that used the hashtag #plogging. Couple that with an event’s hashtag and owners can obtain some excellent publicity - although perhaps not everyone needs to be quite as extreme as this guy. 

In fact, the novelty of the event can lend itself to competitive events. Individuals, families, couples and teams could compete in various division to see who can turn in the most bags of trash. Media members could be invited to come plogging and pick up some refuse while covering the event. And if someone is creative, memorable trophies or finisher medals could be designed as well.

Event owners who want to incorporate plogging should be ready to incorporate a few extra measures:

  • Because ploggers are not likely to be concerned about their finish times, it’s advantageous for non-plogging racers to start first, leaving the ploggers a few minutes behind to do their thing, without interfering with those who are trying for a P.R.
  • Ploggers should be supplied with what they’ll need: Disposable gloves (such as those given out for neighborhood beautification projects) and strong bags (heavy-duty kitchen trash bags are recommended at a minimum; plastic shopping bags, such as those from grocery stores, are likely to tear quickly). Some ploggers prefer to use
  • Ploggers may not want to carry a bag for an entire 5K; therefore, it may be advantageous to have ‘drop-off stations where filled bags can be left and new bags can be obtained, if desired
  • Event owners may want to set parameters and safety rules regarding not picking up sharp objects or anything that could constitute a hazard. Additionally, event owners should check with their insurers to make sure no additional coverage is needed.

Plogging event owners may be able to find support from local businesses and even governmental entities such as rec and parks department. An article in City Lab notes, “refuse cleanup can cost the U.S. $11.5 billion each year, according to the nonprofit Keep America Beautiful, which recently teamed up with the health tracking app Lifesum to encourage plogging in the U.S. Local governments pay $1.3 billion of that, and businesses end up footing the rest of the bill. And that’s still not enough to keep litter from seeping into waterways and natural landscapes—not to mention the other impacts, like rat infestation.”

Already, notes the article, some events have been held. “Between 2009 to 2012, the running group DC Capital Striders, based in the greater Washington, D.C.,area, also hosted the DCCS Trash Runners. Organized by DCCS president Rick Amernick, the group held two to three trash runs each year, sometimes on running trails in the suburbs and in the nearby Rock Creek Park. Other times, they were in the heart of the city. Each run would result in five to six full trash bags.”

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