It started as a personal activity launched by the Swedish Erik Ahlström in 2016 and aims to be a global movement that seeks to gain a foothold in Spain. We are talking about ‘plogging’, an activity that aims to combine physical activity outdoors with waste collection.
The word itself is the union of two Swedish verbs: ‘plocka upp’ (pick up) and ‘jogga’ (jog), although the initiative ensures that any type of outdoor activity is worth it: from mere hiking, through a walk around town or a more intense race. The objective is the same: to collect all kinds of waste that can be found outside.
This environmentally aware movement began to internationalize in 2018 with the help of social networks and it was there that David de Castro, founder of the movement in Spain, met him.
When he moved from Madrid to Alicante for work reasons, he says that he was looking for a hobby for the evenings and weekends that would allow him to meet people. “I saw the ‘plogging’ on social networks and I started looking if there was an established group, because that would allow me to share my two passions: being in contact with nature and caring for the environment,” he recalls. To his surprise, he discovered that there was nothing, so he decided to start the project himself.
From sharing on social networks to founding a movement
De Castro assures that, like the Swedish Ahlström, he began to practice it alone and upload videos and photos to his social networks. «I saw that my friends shared it and that it had some interest. In the end we created a small group to do this more often. In the end, this group, over time, expanded and we decided to institutionalize it so that anyone who wanted to in Spain could join this movement».
In this time, the movement has also been evolving. At first, a group of friends simply got together to do a day of sports while picking up the rubbish they found. After confinement, they decided to have everything more organized.
It was then that they started holding events in which companies that were interested could participate, as well as other institutions (such as town halls) and educational centers (colleges and universities).
In this way, the movement already has several collaborators, who dedicate part of their free time to this activity. Two types of events are organized: some of initiation and others more advanced. The first ones explain what the objectives are and how to carry out the collection (avoiding very bulky or potentially dangerous objects). The advanced ones are for people who have already participated more times and who, on many occasions, are looking for a more intense activity, such as races, rather than a walk.
Also for children
In addition, Plogging Revolution also organizes conferences for companies or schools, adapting the activity to the demands of those who collaborate with the initiative. De Castro assures that schools are a group in which they are especially interested.
“We want to reach the youngest ages so that they become aware. It is not so much that they want to go out to play sports and pick up garbage, but rather that they take that concept and that if they go somewhere on vacation, or want to do or already do sports by themselves, they can take advantage of the movement, “explains Castro.
The great challenge now is to become a broader community throughout Spain. To do this, the organization is committed to the website and social networks to promote that feeling of belonging to an international community.
It should be noted that at the moment ‘plogging’ in our country is focused on hiking and ‘running’, but it is extended to other actions such as diving.
The movement is also taking advantage of its activity to “professionalize” in the sense that it is collecting data on all the garbage they collect. Information that is provided to the University of Alicante and the University of Elche to study everything that ends up in nature.
What, precisely, are those residues that those who do ‘plogging’ come across the most? Although they are usually wide and varied (paper, glass, plastics…), it depends a lot on the area of action. “In a city environment we are going to find mostly butts,” details David de Castro.
Plastic is the king of waste
On the coast, they want to appeal to fishermen on fishing nets and lines. “There are many who remain entangled in the stones, but they are released and in the end the tide returns them to us,” he details. But, without a doubt, “the king” right now in terms of waste is plastic. “In any shape and size. It’s heartbreaking to find it anywhere. It doesn’t matter where you look that the plastic is present, “he details.
As for the most surprising things he has found, De Castro mentions three. The first, “a landfill in the Palm Grove of Elche.” Despite the fact that it is considered a World Heritage Site, de Castro assures that walking through it you can find that landfill “even if it is not cataloged as such,” he denounces.
Secondly, he assures that they picked up a motorcycle in the bed of the Algar River, in Altea. “I don’t know how it ended up there, but everything a river can hide is striking,” he reflects.
Thirdly, what qualifies as the most shocking, all the plastic that accumulates especially on the beaches.