Plogging is a mash up of ‘Plock upp’ — Swedish for ‘to pick up” — and jogging. Yes, it is a real thing and it makes perfect sense.
The basics: when you go out for a run or a walk, take along a plastic bag and a pair of gloves. When you see trash along the way, pick it up. It is a great way to combine fitness and good citizenship. The plogging trend began in Sweden in 2016 and is growing internationally as the amount of litter on our highways and byways is increasing.
Though some litter comes from unsecured items in the back of trucks or trash receptacles, the vast majority of litter originates intentionally from motorists and pedestrians who carelessly toss it along the way. The most common litter includes cigarette butts, food wrappers, plastic bottles, disposable cups, grocery bags, straws and beverage cans.
Litter not only mars the beauty of our roadsides, it also breeds bacteria and it kills animals. Researchers estimate that more than 1 million animals die each year after ingesting, or becoming entrapped in, improperly discarded trash.
All good reasons not to litter, but if that doesn’t stop a litter bug, a stiff fine might. The minimum for a first offense in North Carolina is $250-$1,000. Subsequent offenses can bring community service requirements and fines of up to $2,000.
So what we can we do to stop this plight?
Make sure your trash is secure. You are responsible to make sure your trash bags are unlikely to fall out of your truck en route to the dumpster. If they land on the roadside and you do not go back and pick them up, you could be fined.
Don’t overfill trash bins. Newspapers, cans and other light-weight waste materials can be easily picked up by the wind and scattered.
Keep a litter bag in your vehicle. Put your trash in the bag to dispose of properly later. This will keep trash from blowing out your window or falling out the door when you open it.
Recycle. Recycling materials, instead of tossing them in the trash, can reduce the amount of waste overall and can save natural resources and landfill space.
Use less plastic. Take your own utensils and reusable straws with you when you eat fast food. Every little bit helps. Not only does plastic land on our highways; plastic that lands in our rivers can eventually end up in our ocean. It is projected that by 2050 there will be more plastic than fish in the oceans.
Participate in a community clean-up day. Recently, North Carolina hosted a Spring Litter Sweep campaign. The N.C. Department of Transportation provided bags, gloves and safety vests to volunteers willing to pick up trash in their neighborhoods. Hosting or participating in such events can increase awareness and community pride.
Report a Litter bug. The NCDOT’s Swat-A-Litterbug Program encourages the public to report people who litter intentionally — such as throwing items out the car window — or unintentionally by a garbage bag falling out of the back of a pickup. You can report those who litter by contacting NCDOT’s Litter Management at 1 (800) 331-5864.
You can also download the Swat-A-Litterbug app at www.ncdot.gov. Upon receipt of the reported information, the registered owner of the vehicle will be sent a letter signed by the N.C. State Highway Patrol, informing them about the littering offense and urging them to help keep North Carolina clean.
Last but not least, plog! Keep a trash bag and gloves near your running shoes or hiking boots. Encourage friends and family to do the same.