Plogging: picking up trash while jogging, walking, biking or boating
March 8, 2018 7:31 AM   Subscribe

Erik Ahlström was annoyed by the litter he saw in his new hometown of Stockholm, and set about to make picking up trash into a semi-competitive sport. Thus "plogga" was born, mixing the words "plocka" and "jogga," or "pick up" and "jogging" (Google auto-translate). Plogging is big on instagram, as documented by Buzzfeed, and’s resident fitness expert, Miranda Larbi, said plogging is similar to interval training and mobility training. Plogging has gained international interest in running communities, but it's not just about jogging. As noted in Teen Vogue You can pick up trash while walking your dog or heading anywhere, or while biking or even boating.
posted by filthy light thief (29 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
The only reference to "plogging" I found on MetaFilter was the use of the term as a portmanteau for "pen blogging", back in 2013.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:32 AM on March 8

The competitiveness reminds me of David Sedaris, after whom a garbage truck has been named.
posted by trig at 7:52 AM on March 8 [15 favorites]

In summer camp, we had an activity after lunch and before the afternoon slots called "Pollution Patrol" where every bunk got a garbage bag and a section of the camp to walk and clean up anything that was sitting around.
posted by mikelieman at 7:54 AM on March 8

Wait this is a thing? I do this sometimes and need to do it more. Well, without the jogging because jogging makes me angry.

I don't really care about the exercise part of picking up trash, I just get tired of the trash in natural places.

What I find really fascinating is that there seems to be a lot of internal resistance to doing this kind of thing for a lot of people in the US, and I think part of it is due to a lot of weird cultural dogma about not wanting to look like "that" person, weirdo or crank who goes out and picks up litter for free. Solo. Without some kind of organized work party.

Like it's crazy to give a shit about something and not getting paid for it or some official recognition.

Ok, this does it. I'm carrying a garbage bag on all walks now, and I'm going to get me a trash grabber thing and start being that crank.
posted by loquacious at 7:55 AM on March 8 [20 favorites]

I made this into a little game w/plastic bottles in our neighborhood in DC (which, because of our combined and antiquated sewer system, often end up in our rivers), but it has come back to bite me in the ass. Any "short walk" with my daughter now involves multiple stops and me carrying an armload of dirty bottles to multiple recycling bins.
posted by ryanshepard at 7:55 AM on March 8 [5 favorites]

Mike Dukakis, former Massachusetts governor and presidential candidate, has been doing this for years on his regular walks in his neighborhood. (also see: Dukarcassing).
posted by adamg at 8:06 AM on March 8 [6 favorites]

My people! I pick up trash and recyclables on my breaks at work, because it's just lying there, and I'm going to walk back in past recycling bins and trash cans, so why not?

My wife read about plogging and said "hey, they're doing what you do!"

The Washington Post write-up includes interviews with other long-time "trash runners" who are happy that plogging is now a thing.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:08 AM on March 8 [7 favorites]

You know you had at least a semi-hippie upbringing if this is just what your parents did, no need for a name for it.
posted by praemunire at 8:42 AM on March 8 [11 favorites]

If I get to carry a pointy stick and stab things with it, I'll think about it.
posted by Faint of Butt at 8:47 AM on March 8 [6 favorites]

This is something I (and lots of other people) do when hiking. Any bits of trash I encounter on the trail get picked up and packed out. I figure I've probably accidentally dropped plenty of handwarmers, fragments of Clif bar wrappers, etc. over the years, so this is my way of remaining litter-neutral. There's generally little enough trash to begin with that it doesn't feel pointless and overwhelming.

Never had a name for it though. It's just a nice thing to do that's really easy.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 8:55 AM on March 8 [6 favorites]

If I get to carry a pointy stick and stab things with it, I'll think about it.

I just obtained some cheaper but decent telescoping "trekking poles" from Target because I've wanted some of them for ages for the kind of hiking around I do, especially with a heavy pack full of camera gear. (Or laundry.) And my random found-on-the-beach walking stick is nice and all, but it's also really unwieldy if I want to bring it on a bus or in a car.

Anyway, under the rubber feet they have proper carbide tips. I'll be seeing how those work as trash stabbers, and possibly modifying them or just making a spike I can clip on the poles. If I remember I'll check in with how it goes.

I'm also going to keep my eyes open for a large canvas tote or cross body sling bag or something that I can line with a trash bag for hands free trash collection. I'd like to get to some system that doesn't constantly occupy my hands and lets me pick up trash at a fast walk without slowing down much at all.

I've also had a mind for a while to go bug City Hall about having them give me one of their rolls of official city/park trash bags so I could pick up trash and leave the bags near trash cans, so the city knows it's not random household trash dumping.

This thread is also reminding me of this really cute retired couple that would come through the state park I worked at. They were regular, yearly volunteers who showed up to volunteer for trash patrol, and they'd get super competitive about it with each other. Like, they had a scale they used to weigh their hauls and see who "won" and everything, and you'd see them running around and racing to be the first to some piece of trash off in the distance or up the trail a ways. One year they were disappointed that there wasn't more trash around, because the local trail docents and friends of the park had been especially active that year.

I would occasionally comp them free coffee and food when I could get away it. They were great to have around and they were making my favorite park prettier.
posted by loquacious at 9:08 AM on March 8 [8 favorites]

Faint of Butt, I ordered a trash stabber online for 9 bucks and it has been THE BEST. I hung it on a hook by my back door and grab it on my way out with the dog. Infinitely more entertaining to viciously pierce trash than merely to pick it up.
posted by DSime at 9:16 AM on March 8 [3 favorites]

so many times I've been riding my bike out on a trail and seen trash (fucking motor oil bottles! in the woods right next to a drinking water reservoir!) but had no way to pack it out. this is the reminder I needed, I have a backpack now, thanks for posting this!
posted by indubitable at 10:38 AM on March 8

If I get to carry a pointy stick and stab things with it, I'll think about it.

Or - OR - how about a long stick with a grabby claw on the end that could either be a robotic extension of your arm, or help you get that can of creamed corn off the top shelf when you are old and infirm?

If you are already old and infirm, good for you!
posted by Major Matt Mason Dixon at 10:56 AM on March 8

I've considered teaching my 2yo to do this, since I want to try to instill a... community spirit, I suppose, in both my kid and myself.

Downside: I live in NY, where the trash is probably radioactive and covered in pee.
posted by XtinaS at 11:08 AM on March 8 [1 favorite]

If I'm out with my dog and I see another pile of doggie poo, I will pick it up. There have been enough times in which Thunderdog has run off into the woods and come back looking relieved, but I haven't been able to get back into the brush to retrieve it. So I pick up Good Karma Poo if I see it. I've got the baggies in my pocket and I'm already walking the dog and expecting to pick up poo, anyway.

I'd love to extend this to picking up trash while running or walking. I see so many plastic bags flying around outside, I could just grab and use one of those. Trash in trash. Metatrash.
posted by Elly Vortex at 11:09 AM on March 8 [2 favorites]

Oh, good on this guy! Litter is a huge pet peeve of mine. I just don't understand it. What's wrong with putting something you no longer want in your pocket until you find a trash can?

We've done creek cleanups. The worst trash offense by far is the tops off of drink bottles - water bottles, gatorade bottles, etc. When the creek gets low the bottle caps form a beach. It's astounding. Tens of thousands of little tiny bottle caps. So now the kiddos and I make a point of picking up bottle caps at the very very least.

The other thing I was really surprised by was all of the disposable lighters. Here in Los Angeles, the world capital of nonsmoking, it's really quite something to come across disposable lighters. I don't know anything about vaping but I assume they have built-in lighters? Who the heck is still using disposable lighters? Doesn't matter, they all seem to end up in the creek (we do our clean-ups about a mile in from where it drains straight into the ocean, so double ick).
posted by vignettist at 11:42 AM on March 8 [1 favorite]

OK just this weekend 8 yr old son of Sol and I went on a walk picking up trash in our suburban. His idea. We quickly filled our two plastic shopping bags but found a discarded bag - bonus!

Friends are over now and are recounting their trip to Cancun for February vacation - each morning there were waves of tourists on the beaches walking with plastic bags picking up trash.

During middle school, we did community service at the zoo in the middle of an inner city - sometimes we would have trash competitions to find the most waste. I loved that job. We would have beaten the pants off Blue Team if only they hadn't found that brake rim.
posted by sol at 11:43 AM on March 8 [1 favorite]

"Who the heck is still using disposable lighters?"

Every smoker everywhere other than cigar smokers. I wonder if the pot smokers in LA now outnumber the tobacco smokers.

And no, vapers don't litter that, their environmental damage is disposing of (rechargeable) batteries, largely.
posted by el io at 11:58 AM on March 8 [4 favorites]

Funny, I was thinking about this, this morning on a walk around my neighborhood. Nice to have a word to go with it. There were so many discarded mini bottles along my route that I also wondered who is drinking that many minis and tossing them on the side of the street. I didn't pick any up this morning, but I should add plogging to my routine.
posted by BooneTheCowboyToy at 12:27 PM on March 8 [1 favorite]

There were so many discarded mini bottles along my route that I also wondered who is drinking that many minis and tossing them on the side of the street.

This really is a weird issue in Santa Fe, somehow eclipsing the issue with 5 hour energy drinks of the past. The City Council thought it was enough of an issue to outlaw selling anything less than 8 oz, but a Santa Fe district judge ruled that the city could not prohibit sales of liquor in miniature bottles under state law.
posted by filthy light thief at 3:10 PM on March 8

I've been picking up trash while out on my daily walks for years. The only downside is that people give me the side eye when I do this. It makes me want to ask them, "Oh yeah? What have you done to help the planet today?" Also, is there a nice portmaneau of walking and plucking? Plalking? Wucking?
posted by Lynsey at 4:28 PM on March 8 [1 favorite]

This is great.

Recently, my wife and I have become less squeamish or huffy about picking up other people's litter. On our infrequent walks, we aim to pick up at least one piece of trash. If everyone picked up just one piece of trash that wasn't theirs...
posted by Artful Codger at 4:40 PM on March 8

One of the best things about habitually wearing cargo pants has been having enough pockets available that I can devote one exclusively to stuffing random scraps of plastic in until I next walk past a bin. Paper I will generally leave to look after itself.

I also carry a film canister that often briefly contains other peoples' cigarette butts.
posted by flabdablet at 12:36 AM on March 9

What I want to know is, has anyone informed David Sedaris about this?
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:44 AM on March 9

the man of twists and turns: A longer-term solution is to stop creating so much junk in the first place. Essentially, though, that’s what ideas like litter prevention are meant to obscure.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle! (I've had this vague mental image for a while, of a crowed of cartoon people, hoisting Recycling up in the air, and everyone's cheering, while Reduce and Reuse are left behind in a cartoon dust cloud)
posted by filthy light thief at 11:20 AM on March 9

"What I find really fascinating is that there seems to be a lot of internal resistance to doing this kind of thing for a lot of people in the US, and I think part of it is due to a lot of weird cultural dogma about not wanting to look like "that" person, weirdo or crank who goes out and picks up litter for free. "

Wait, where in the US do you live? Everywhere I've lived it's been considered part of normal neighborliness and good citizenship. I mean, in a residential neighborhood, a lot of the stray trash is stuff that blew out of trashcans when the garbage truck was emptying them into its hopper, that's not even some litterbug's fault, it's just a thing that wind does.

I'm reluctant to do it when I'm walking with my kids because they're so little they're terrible judges of safety w/r/t broken glass and things like that, so we're still working on DON'T TOUCH TRASH!, but I will snag plastic bags and aluminum cans and intact bottles if I see them on the way to the park, they almost always just fell out of someone trash or recycling. Once my kids are on the playground equipment I do pick up anything I see around the play area, because, hey, I'm just standing there, why not make it cleaner and safer? But when I'm walking by myself or with other adults, of course I pick stuff up! I'm not a sociopath!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 2:36 PM on March 10 [1 favorite]

Wait, where in the US do you live?

Well, I grew up in the earthy-crunchy SF Bay Area in the 70s surrounded by people with Sierra Club and "Keep Tahoe blue" bumper stickers and still remember feeling mildly embarrassed as a child when my dad would pick up trash when we were out for a walk or a hike. So possibly anywhere.
posted by Lexica at 3:01 PM on March 10

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