Last year, teacher James Marlow founded HK Ploggers, a group dedicated to “plogging” — the fitness activity of going jogging while picking up rubbish. Having originated in Sweden, its name combines “jogging” with “plocka upp”, Swedish for “pick up”. We speak to James about the benefits of plogging and how the group has grown since it was founded.
A growing problem
I set up HK Ploggers with the aim of encouraging individuals and groups who wouldn’t normally engage in environmental awareness activities to get involved and do their bit. I hoped that the extra reach would allow me to inform more individuals about the importance of making key lifestyle changes to combat the issues faced by the environment today.
I was becoming increasingly worried about the situation in the city. With the three landfills available in Hong Kong nearing being completely full, it’s a situation that we cannot ignore. I saw multiple videos online of the growing trend of plogging across Europe and North America and thought, “Why can’t we try this in Hong Kong?”
Full body workout
To me, plogging felt like a fun activity to do as it combines running, something which many people enjoy doing, with picking up litter, something I personally enjoy doing myself. Normal day-to-day jogging is good for your body because, of course, it’s exercise, but pairing it with picking up litter means that you’re also doing something good for the environment.
There are lots of different layers to plogging compared to jogging. It’s pretty much a full body workout. You end up squatting and bending your body into different positions depending on where the rubbish is. For example, crouching down to get an area with a ton of rubbish underneath, perhaps on all fours, or climbing over something to reach what you need to get. We also carry what we collect along the way, meaning there’s the aspect of carrying potentially heavy weights along the route!
What’s been overlooked
I choose routes that I feel I have been neglected either by cleanup organizations such as ourselves or by the government. I think it’s important that we address the waste issue across all of Hong Kong rather than just focusing on places such as tourist areas, beaches, and so on. We usually end up returning to Aberdeen, Sham Shui Po, the whole of Hong Kong Island, and Sha Tin. Generally more urban areas. Most of them have a lot of rubbish that has been left because it’s inaccessible to street cleaners who, as we all know, are generally older and might not have the ability to climb or crawl, as well as annoyingly aren’t paid a fair wage like they deserve. Because of this, we end up finding rubbish that’s several years old in areas where people walk past every day. It’s crazy!
From present to future
Not much has changed in terms of the plogs themselves [over the past year], but we’ve managed to have a good amount of people join and then return for a second or third run — and in one case over 10 runs! — which I think is amazing. Initially I wanted to have as many people join as possible, but I realized that it’s better to keep the groups smaller. It can be quite difficult to manage 40 to 50 people at one time.
Currently we have one or two public runs every month as well as specific events with either companies or schools. We do sponsored private runs where we give a presentation and have a group discussion following the event.
From our Point of View series.