What do you think? Leave a respectful comment.

How plogging turns an ordinary workout into a ‘treasure hunt’

After moving from a Swedish ski resort to Stockholm, Erik Ahlstrom noticed a lot of litter during his daily bicycle commute. So he decided to do something about it. In 2016, Ahlstrom began organizing groups to pick up trash while jogging, and thus “plogging,” a term created by combining "jogging" with a Swedish word for "picking up," was born. Julia Griffin reports on the activity's global spread.

Read the Full Transcript

  • John Yang:

    Plastic bags, cups and other and trash are filling landfills around the world, but a lot of waste doesn't even make it to garbage bins.

    In the latest installment in our series The Plastic Problem, the "NewsHour"'s Julia Griffin explains how one man's drive to clean up city streets sparked global exercise craze.

  • Julia Griffin:

    In the middle of the work day recently, a handful of Washington, D.C., residents traded their lunch breaks for a midday plog.

  • Heather Jeff:

    Plogging is basically you get some friends together, you get a plastic glove or two, and then a bag, and you just run around and, as you run through a neighborhood, you just pick up any trash you see along the way.

  • Julia Griffin:

    Heather Jeff is the events manager for Pacers Running. The gear shops first began organizing plogging runs events earlier this summer.

  • Heather Jeff:

    As runners, you're outside. And we generally — you know, we try not to leave a trace out there.

  • Man:

    That's a full water bottle.

  • Heather Jeff:

    So when you see the things that are kind of out and about in the bushes or on the ground, it's kind of our job to help pick it up, because we use it and we enjoy it.

  • Julia Griffin:

    Plogging is the English version of plogga, a mash-up of jogging and the Swedish term plocka upp, which means pick up.

  • Erik Ahlstrom:

    This is not a competition. You don't have to be good athlete to be good plogger.

  • Julia Griffin:

    Swedish-American Erik Ahlstrom is considered the godfather of plogging. He invented the earth-minded sport in 2016 after moving from Sweden's Are ski resort to Stockholm.

  • Erik Ahlstrom:

    I noticed it was so much more garbage than it heard been before, because I was cycling to work, and I could see that the garbage was laying there for weeks and no one was picking it up.

  • Julia Griffin:

    Annoyed by all the trash, Ahlstrom began organizing pick-up-while-jogging events with friends and the wider running community.

  • Erik Ahlstrom:

    And I noticed something was happening. When you are doing a physical activity like we did, you get your adrenaline and your endorphin going, and then it becomes like a treasure hunt.

  • Julia Griffin:

    Now Ahlstrom travels the world speaking about plogging and uses his Web site to guide like-minded athletes in forming their own plogging groups.

    Today, the fitness craze has spread to nearly every continent, from Japan, to Nigeria and India, where government officials have advised municipalities across the country to organize plogging sessions for their residents to combat pollution.

    Earth-conscious runners use the hashtags plogga and plogging to fill Instagram feeds with posts of their plunder, and plogging has even been spotted in marathons, 10Ks and other foot races around the world.

    In the U.S., ploggers plog from New York to Alaska.

  • Ken Holmes:

    There's so much trash that needs to be picked up, and it's a great way to just stay active.

  • Julia Griffin:

    Ken Holmes is a brand representative for Saucony. This summer, the running shoe company partnered with the nonprofit Keep America Beautiful to host plogging events in nearly every state.

  • Ken Holmes:

    We wanted to help promote not only staying active and running, but also doing something good for the environment.

  • Julia Griffin:

    Back in Sweden, Erik Ahlstrom hopes the rising popularity of plogging will prompt non-runners to pitch in.

  • Erik Ahlstrom:

    If you see garbage, it should be natural to pick it up. And if we start picking up, then that person next to us, he would do the same.

  • Julia Griffin:

    And with so much discarded trash in the world, there's no time like the present to inspire others to help clean up.

    For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Julia Griffin.

  • John Yang:

    You can find all our the stories in our Plastic Problem series at PBS.org/NewsHour.

Listen to this Segment

The Latest