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Go plogging

By on April 23, 2018 in Outdoor Fun with 0 Comments

Kevin Farrell picks up litter — including Bud Light with Clamato cans — from alongside the road.


By Marlene Farrell

In the months he’s not skiing, my husband, Kevin Farrell, goes for a daily run before or after work. A couple years ago, he added a new element once a week.

On Wednesdays, Kevin doesn’t just jog, he plogs.

Plogging is a term combining jogging and “plocka upp” from Swedish for pick up, in this case, litter.

As the name implies, the trend of plogging is popular in Europe and catching on in the U.S.

Kevin, however, started picking up garbage long before he heard the trendy name.

Kevin loves running for its own sake. He said, “I need exercise to keep my body tuned and to live a healthy life.”

Incorporating plogging didn’t happen suddenly for Kevin. “It’s been a progression for me to get to the point of picking up garbage once a week.”

If the millions of American runners picked up a few pieces of trash every week, it’s amazing to imagine what an impact it could make on the landscape and for wildlife…

Running gives Kevin time to think. “Years ago, I thought, ‘What can I do to keep my neighborhood clean?’ If I don’t want to look at the litter along the sides of the road, I realized I would have to be the guy to do it.

“At first I was hesitant. I think people in general feel too superior to pick up anyone else’s garbage. There seems to be a stigma associated with it. Now I know not to worry. Maybe if someone sees me, he thinks, ‘I should do that too.’”

Only a small segment of the population actually litters. “I learn about the litterers from the types of garbage I find — beer cans, cigarette butts, fast food containers, plastic wrappers and cellophane,” Kevin said. “This stretch of road is a collection site for 16 oz. cans of Budweiser with Clamato. I often find four to five a week, as if someone has a habit of drinking one and throwing it out the window every day.”

Kevin purposely plogs on garbage collection days. He scans the road, the ditch and bushes as he runs. Seeing a flash of unnatural color, rusty metal, or flapping plastic, he darts off the road to collect the bit of detritus where it’s smashed into the gravel or tangled in some branches.

He might gather up to eight beer cans in his hands. “I don’t need to carry a bag, because I’ll consistently find a plastic bag somewhere on the route.” When he passes a garbage can or recycling bin, he drops in a load and keeps running. “I like to think my neighbors are pleased that I’m cleaning up their property and putting it in their can.”

Other than washing his hands when he gets home, he doesn’t worry much about contamination. That’s not to say that even Kevin has exceptions. “I’d only pick up a diaper if I’ve got a plastic bag. I find beer cans that have been used as spittoons. I don’t realize that until I’m holding one, so I carry it, but it grosses me out. The only thing I intentionally left on the ground was a condom and, even then, I contemplated if I should have taken care of it just so I wouldn’t have to see it again.”

I’ve gone plogging with Kevin, and I was impressed with how quickly we could fill a bag of garbage.

With a bit of practice, I developed a search image for the unnatural, whatever was too shiny or sharp edged or bright to be a leaf or a rock. It was fun, and it made me happy.

We ran the few miles a bit slower, but we also covered extra ground with the collecting detours.

I realized if the millions of American runners picked up a few pieces of trash every week, it’s amazing to imagine what an impact it could make on the landscape and for wildlife. Plastics take hundreds of years to decompose, and can easily be transported by the rain into creeks and rivers.

However, Kevin reminded me, “You don’t have to run to pick up garbage.” Ignoring litter doesn’t make it go away.

“Picking up litter is for the greater good,” said Kevin, adding that plogging is a nice start to his Wednesdays.

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