What is plogging - and how do I get involved?

Thursday, 17th May 2018, 13:49 pm
Updated Friday, 9th November 2018, 07:09 am

Every Tuesday night in Edinburgh keen joggers gather at the Leith bar-restaurant Joseph Pearce and set off on a leisurely evening jog.

These fitness fanatics aren't merely looking to stretch their legs, however.

Armed with gloves and bin bags, the group dart off on city runs and fill their refuse sacks with the plastic bottles, cigarette butts and takeaway packaging which punctuate their city's streets.

Lead by Joseph Pearce owner Anna Christopherson the band of health-conscious and neighbourhood-proud samaritans are one of the many groups in the UK embracing the Swedish lifestyle movement of 'plogging'.

What is plogging?

The movement is the latest lifestyle import to cross the North Sea from Scandinavia, plogging being an adaptation of 'plocka upp', the Swedish for 'pick up'.

This combination of jogging and picking up litter took off in the Nordic country in 2016 following increased awareness of plastic pollution.

And while the idea of combining your daily jog with a spring clean of your running route might seem like an arduous task, the movement has seen a surge in popularity in the UK.

Plogging involves combining jogging with picking up litter (Photo: Anna Christopherson)

Anna Christopherson explains how she and her group first embraced the concept.

"Someone tagged me in a Facebook post back in January and I said hey lets do it, because we have a jogging club anyway and we've been going running every single Tuesday for the last ten years so I said 'why don't we do a plogging session?'"

Since their first plogging session Christopherson and company have taken to the streets on a near weekly basis to perform a clean sweep of Edinburgh's streets.

The sight of runners zig zagging along Leith Walk with plastic bags parachuting behind them is intrinsically odd, but Christopherson says that most responses from onlookers are positive.

"They laugh, or they say well done," she reveals, laughing herself.

An all-round workout

It isn't just Edinburgh's streets that are benefitting from the city's first plogging group.

The squatting and stretches required to pick up litter, combined with jogging, work a variety of participants' muscles, and provide a pleasant change from the humble, but humdrum jog.

Anna and her fellow ploggers patrol the streets of Leith (Photo: Anna Christopherson)

"It is a great all-round workout - if you do it for a long time, say an hour, you are sore because you're having to squat down all the time," notes Christopherson. "It's pretty hardcore actually."

Despite participating in plogging for half a year, the bar owner has already noticed the physical benefits.

"My gluteus muscles are much better now!"

A symptom of the UK's rubbish problem

Awareness of the United Kingdom's problem with rubbish and plastic have heightened since David Attenborough highlighted the issue affecting the world's seas in Blue Planet II.

In March Theresa May's government announced plans to introduce a plastic bottle return scheme to protect our oceans - and streets - from the plague of rubbish.

Christopherson explains that her participation in plogging is a symptom of her city's unkempt appearance.

Anna Christopherson claims plogging is a great physical workout (Photo: JP)

"There's so much litter," she reveals exasperatedly.

"When you really look and start seeing how much there is you get quite obsessed - there's so much rubbish on the streets.

"Yesterday on my run from work to home I picked up 20 plastic bottles - I only live two kilometres away. "

Residents of rubbish-affected areas "have to take responsibility for their own community", insists Christopherson.

A positive influence

Though plogging is likely to remain a niche pastime enjoyed by the few, there's no doubt that the activity can only provide a positive influence on participants and onlookers.

"I wouldn't say there are more people out plogging just yet," explains Anna Christopherson.

"But, I would say recently there are more people who may be out walking their dogs bringing a plastic bag and picking up. The attitude towards litter is definitely changing and we are playing some part in that."

And getting involved with plogging is as simple as incorporating a litter pick into your usual running routine.

If you're looking for company, however, groups like Christopherson's are always recruiting.

"Anyone is welcome to join us for a plog a Tuesday night!"