In less than two years, plogging has gone from underground movement to a global fitness trend — combining getting in shape with environmental action. Plogging, a mashup of the English word jogging and the Swedish “plocka upp” (meaning pick up), started in 2016 when Erik Ahlström, a multi-discipline sportsman from Stockholm, set up a running crew focused on picking up trash rather than achieving PBs. After investing in some garbage bags and protective gloves, Ahlström and his friends ran the streets, beaches, and trails, collecting and properly disposing of litter as part of their workout. Plogging has since gained traction worldwide, with independent run crews doing their bit to rid the world of litter.


“This is not a competition,” Ahlström told PBS recently. “You don’t have to be a good athlete to be a good plogger.” He said he’d been trying for years to do his bit to eradicate littering, but it wasn’t until he moved from the Åre ski resort to Stockholm that he saw how urgent the problem really was. He decided he needed to step up his efforts several notches, so organized a number of local “pick-up-while-jogging” events. Sometimes movements take a while to get going, but plogging was a hit right out of the gate, with like-minded groups quickly springing up across the globe.

The reasons for plogging’s popularity extend far beyond its environmentally responsible goals. Fitness experts point to the added benefits of a full-body workout that includes the bending, stretching and squatting necessary to collect trash. There’s also the calories burned and muscles exercised from the additional weight of the litter ploggers gather while running. Plogging’s gamification of running — the idea that you get a bigger emotional payoff the more trash you pick up — is another reason it’s become so popular. “You get your adrenaline, your endorphins going and then it becomes like a treasure hunt,” said Ahlström.


In a piece for The Guardian headlined: “A rubbish way to get fit—why I loved going plogging,” writer Peter Ross joined a plogging group in Edinburgh. “It’s amazing — and dispiriting — to see how much mess is lying on the streets,” said Ross, who found himself “panting and sweating” after an hour “but feeling saintly.” In many ways, plogging exemplifies the transformative power of sport when it’s motivated by something more than self. And nowhere is that more evident than social media. Just take a look at #plogging on Instagram — where you’ll find tens of thousands of posts featuring ploggers around the world holding up trash bags as if they were Olympic medals. There are selfies, group shots, artistic renderings, wildly creative, earth-friendly hashtags and words of encouragement.

“Shocked by the amount of litter we see everywhere in the UK and around the world,” says a post from the community group @TheLittleLitterPickers, accompanied by #WomenHealTheWorld. It concludes, “What started out as a hobby has now become a lifestyle and we learn something new every day.” “Get. Out. There. And leave it better than you found it,” says Surf_Sun_Sand_Litter, whose trash collections along Florida’s beaches are presented in highly stylized, colorful and suitable-for-framing photographs. As the irrefutable evidence of climate change mounts and the oceans become increasingly plagued by pollution, it’s more important than ever that individuals and corporations alike do something about it. Plogging can be a heart-pumping, muscle-building part of that something.


In 2017, Australian actor Chris Hemsworth (best known for his lead role in Thor) pledged his considerable star power to an ambitious plogger-aided project to clear plastic from the coastlines of 100 islands that are positively drowning in seas of the stuff. The focus is on six key regions — Mexico, the Maldives, Australia, Chile, Italy and the Dominican Republic — where they’ll be employing the Parley AIR Strategy (an acronym standing for Avoid plastic, Intercept plastic debris, and Redesign materials). adidas is also working with Parley to reduce ocean pollution – intercepting plastic it before it hits the water and repurposing it into a thread that is woven into the sneakers.


It’s important to note that although many, if not most ploggers are runners, plogging is by no means limited to one discipline. As founding father Ahlström told MBC (Middle East Broadcasting Center) “You don’t have to run. You can do it walking. You can do it skateboarding, or paddling.” American humorist David Sedaris, author of books including Calypso and Me Talk Pretty One Day, is such a dedicated plogger that he reportedly spends up to nine hours a day picking up rubbish around his hometown in West Sussex, England. He sometimes walks up to 60,000 steps, and has even had a garbage truck named after him in recognition of his stellar efforts.

It may not seem like much, but plogging embodies a kind of initiative, responsibility, and environmental awareness worth striving for. By taking up plogging and integrating more eco-friendly practices into our daily routines, we can do our bit to create the cleaner world we all want to live in.


However you get your exercise, plogging offers both profound and practical ways to transform your training. Here are just a few things to help you get started:
1. Find your plog crew: Plog on your own, or grab a few friends to join you. Also, keep an eye out for trash running groups in your city, such as New York’s Plogging NYC, which currently has 185 members on
2. Get your gear: Simply add a trash bag (or reusable tote) and protective gloves to your standard running outfit and you’re ready to plog!
3. Kill your speed: New York plogging crew Plogging NYC run a range of different paths around their city at a slow pace, giving everyone a chance to pick up more trash along the way. In other words – slow and steady wins the plogging race.