The United Nations Environment Program reports we produce about 400 million tons of plastic waste every year. Some of which never make it into a recycling bin or landfill, but instead litter our streets and trails. There's a recreational trend addressing this problem. It's called plogging.
It's a combination of jogging while picking up litter. The eco-friendly activity is becoming a popular movement globally.
Paul Waye lives in the Netherlands and has competed in the world plogging championships. For years, he's been posting his plogging adventures on social media and even has the word "plog" tattooed on his forearm.
"So, I do 40,000 liters of trash a year. So, I do sort of well over the sort of the 250 pounds of trash a month."
"The reason why I started it was simply, I was running to the train station and I looked down into the hedgerow and I just saw all this plastic and I saw this fast food packaging and I thought, if I don't pick it up, then who will?"
"As soon as you pick up one piece of trash, you're making, there's a behavior that you're doing and that behavior is showing an intention to improve the world."
Plogging comes from combining the Swedish verbs "plocka up" which means pick up and "jogga" which means jog. Swede Erik Ahlström coined the term in 2016 and social media has made the movement widespread. Since then, we've seen this clean-up cardio concept evolve with terms like "pliking" which is picking up trash while hiking and biking.
"As soon as you get involved with something like this and you see just how in your local community, how much trash you can clean up. I know for me it's eye-opening and it really makes me question every decision I make," said Sydney Hella, Miss Colorado Earth.
Hella has been involved with the Miss Earth organization for six years.
"So that is what my platform is, just encouraging myself going out and hiking and cleaning up and encouraging others to do the same."
"There's going to be a lot more harm to our day-to-day life that's going to be done if it's just sitting out, if it's slowly decomposing into our earth, releasing microplastics into our water. Then if it's, you know, we bring it home, if it can be recycled, recycle it. Take it to a landfill where it can be properly disposed of. Again, not an ideal situation, but better than being directly in our waterways, in our drinking water," said Hella.
Steve Jewett with non-profit, Clean Trails owns the website plogging.orgwhere you can search for plogging events or record your own plogging efforts.
"There's individuals that are doing this just because it's the right thing to do," said Jewett.
"We help promote plogging events. And essentially, I was doing plogging before I realized it was plogging."
The website reports every day about 20,000 people plog in more than 100 countries.
"There's a number of country leaders, presidents, prime ministers that have gone plogging. A lot of those over in Europe," Jewett said.
"For me, the most important thing is not necessarily what you do with that trash or even how much you pick up. It's the fact that you're showing a commitment to say, well, there's a problem that we need to address," said Waye.
"And, and I think it doesn't matter whether we continue with single-use plastics, whether we have the government's changing policies, whether we have companies changing attitudes or, or people, it will always come down to the, the population of, of society to actually create change."