MUMBAI: In October last year, a jogger who stepped out of the confines of the lockdown to go trekking in the Kharghar Hills found herself fuming. Instead of views of flowers, butterflies and waterfalls along the climb, she found her eyes resting on cups, wrappers, beer bottles and even mattresses left behind by people increasingly flocking the wide open expanse. Frustrated with the amount of litter mottling the otherwise pristine terrain, Rashmi Singh, 23, found resolution in plogging —a mashup of the words ‘jogging’ and ‘plocka upp’, Swedish for ‘pick up’ — a Scandinavian fitness craze where people pick up litter while jogging or brisk walking as a way to save the climate and get into shape.
The discipline — invented rather accidentally in 2016 in Sweden by a trail runner who decided to clean up litter he often encountered — has caught on among exercisers fed up of dodging rubbish along parks and pavements with an active ‘Mumbai Ploggers’ community emerging as the new heroes in the city’s cleanliness drive.
“The sight of bottles and packets at the top of the hill and people’s lack of consciousness made me angry and spurred me into action,” says Singh, who is now at the helm of the Mumbai Ploggers community. “I’d put up stories on my social media page and friends, family and acquaintances would join me. Slowly other trekkers started joining in. We also caught the attention of ploggers in other cities and with their support we have managed to create a community of 30 dedicated ploggers.” The ploggers spend two hours every Sunday plucking litter on the run and another two hours planning awareness drives. “We usually take the waste to the municipal bins and when it’s difficult for us to carry it down, we seek help from local municipal officers,” says Singh.
If the city’s community-led beach clean-ups were about cleansing shorelines, plogging is an environmental pursuit to halt waste at the source before it lands in sea. Looking for alternate ways to better manage the waste, the ploggers are also making ecobricks, a low-tech solution to repurposing plastic waste. “About two weeks of plastic generated by a family can make one ecobrick,” said Singh. While Pune is the state’s oldest chapter, the newer ones are in Nashik, Nagpur, Aurangabad, Mumbai and Latur. The ploggers plan to expand their efforts to other parts of the city too, starting with Parsik Hill in Navi Mumbai.
A tangible reward of plogging is its health benefits. Think stooping, squatting, twisting and a wide range of muscle movements while jogging. “A half hour of plogging burns 288 calories compared to 235 calories burned during a traditional run. If you’re also lifting huge bags of garbage and climbing downhill that would count as weight lifting!” laughs Singh.