By Deb Clemens – Co-Founder of the plastic runner
Earlier this year, the plastic runner was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to collaborate with the City of Melbourne (CoM), as part of the National Sustainable Living Festival. This activity involved our group leading four plog events within Melbourne during February to assist CoM increase awareness about excess waste and litter prevention in our beautiful city. We also wanted to bring more awareness about the plogging movement in general and gain more Melburnian plog recruits!
So what’s all the fuss about plogging? Put simply, it’s a mix of running or jogging and litter collecting. It’s a fun and easy way to demonstrate the impact of plastic pollution in our environment whilst keeping active and fit. And it is also a great and easy way to bring communities together as they work as a team.
Our first event with CoM kicked off on a drizzly Saturday morning from the Row Sheds by the Yarra River. Dark, ominous clouds were forming and it was surprisingly cold for a February morning but nevertheless, we had over half a dozen eager “plogger wannabes” show up. After our plogging safety briefing, we headed along the river path with our yellow and white collection bags - yellow for recyclables and white for general waste. In less than a few minutes, we stumbled on signs of the previous nights’ excesses - dozens of bottles, glass and plastic, nangs, a bike helmet (which we fished out the river) and a discarded syringe – all simply dumped on and around the grassy banks of the Yarra River where many Melburnians, visitors and tourists sit to enjoy a picnic or just take in the views.
Our group often finds what is described as extremely “random” trash (or treasure to some of us!) and these findings are a great source of entertainment for all the ploggers participating. Other peculiar discoveries from our plog adventures include: pirated DVDs, stiletto heels, a drone, a wedding dress and a few unmentionable personal items! Our lucky find for this event was a $10 note – plastic that’s easy to reuse/recycle! The weather on this day, however wasn’t so lucky…
Twenty minutes or so into our plogging, the heavens suddenly opened but thankfully this did not dampen the spirits of this plucky plogging team – in fact there wasn’t even a grumble and the downpour just seemed to egg this crew on even more. We must have looked an odd sight – a drenched plogging tribe whooping, jogging, singing and skipping across the bridge with bulging trash bags slung over our shoulders.
By the end of this particularly soggy plog session, our small team of 7 ploggers collected 8 large bags of rubbish in just 45-50 minutes. So much waste in so little time, with just some effort.
For each plog event, CoM had organised additional rubbish bins, so we set to work on separating and emptying the litter in the appropriate place. I’m still learning what can be recycled and what shouldn’t be but this is part of why plogging is such a good way to educate people on sustainability. For example, before plogging I had no idea that disposable coffee cups weren’t recyclable. I now understand that these cups are lined with polyethylene (a waterproof plastic) which makes them a contaminant. Worse still, these cups release methane gas in our landfills – pretty gross and another contributing factor to our growing climate problems! With this knowledge in mind, I now grab a Keep Cup with me when I head to a café or better still, take time to enjoy a coffee on the premises or just make my own at home!
Naturally as a regular (plastic) runner / plogger, it saddens me to see all this recklessness, ignorance and lack of care for our planet but on the flip side, it’s a real joy to make some positive steps and share the experience and connect with new and established ploggers. Every time The Plastic Runner group plog together, others observe what we’re doing, thank us and better still, ask if they can grab a bag or two and join in. This is when the power of “action + influence” is undeniably evident, this is one of the many ways we can make a difference and hopefully, cause a ripple effect to secure a better future for our city and our environment.