A member of a Maine Department of Transportation roadside maintenance crew picking up litter beside the interstate in Fairfield, drains the liquid from the can before placing it in a trash bag. Credit: Aislinn Sarnacki / BDN

By Katie Smith

For years, I’ve been running the backroads of my town. While it’s fairly rural, there is always a piece of trash or two that I see on my route. My routine has been to grab it on my way home, tuck it into a pocket and throw it out when I return home.

However, last summer I noticed more people out walking or jogging with trash bags while they get their daily burn. Turns out, the practice has a name: Plogging. The moniker for this new trendy sport was coined by Erik Ahlstrom in 2016.

Ahlstrom moved to Stockholm and was bothered by the amount of litter he saw while getting his daily exercise. He started picking it up each day and called it plogging, which is a combination of jogging and the Swedish word for pick up, plocka upp.

Thanks to social media, this exercise trend beneficial for the environment and your body is sweeping the world.

Peggy Brown of Brunswick has been heading out for over two years to gather trash during her workouts. Her daughters and a few friends have also joined in.

“I bring a recyclable shopping bag with me, the kind that you use for groceries at Shaws or Hannaford and I wear gloves. When my bag is full I head back home and drop it off. Sometimes I fill the bag pretty quickly, so I head home, drop the bag off and head out again to get more of a walk in,” Brown said.

Other days she’ll drive to a different location, gathering even more trash on her walks — enough to sometimes fill a few full-sized trash bags.

Ned Swain of Portland said he grabs whatever he can find when he goes out for his runs and has spread the word by posting about it on social media.

“I’m out on the roads anyway so I figure why not? It doesn’t cost me anything to pick up the trash. It may not ever be a lot but over a year it adds up to over a 100 lbs of plastic litter. I’ve found gallons of oil and hydraulic fluid too. I’m pretty glad I kept them from going into the watershed,” Swain said.

Swain, who has been plogging for about two years, said the most common things he picks up are Dunkin Donuts cups and little alcohol bottles, known as nips. “I think my record is 37 empty nips in a single 3 mile run.”

Not only can you get a little bit of an extra workout in by carrying around the weight of the trash on your walk or run, some people will squat or lunge to pick up their trash to get a little strength training in there.

However, the biggest benefit of all is getting outside and picking up all the extra trash on the side of the road that would otherwise stay, get blown around, or flow into our lakes, rivers and oceans.

Next time you head out, grab a bag and see how fast you can fill it up. Like Swain said, it’s free and he’s headed out there anyway so, why not?