Paul Waye (@wayeoflife) is a Dutch-British marathon runner who decided to turn his passion for running into a crusade against rubbish by plogging. Plogging is a combination of jogging with picking up litter. It started as an organized activity in Sweden a few years ago and spread to other countries around the world in response to the growing concern around plastic pollution. An estimated 2,000,000 people plog daily in 100 countries and some plogging events have attracted over 3,000,000 participants. We chatted with Paul to learn more about this interesting mix of sport and environmentalism that’s quickly gaining ground.
How did you get into plogging?
I started taking it seriously for environmental reasons back in 2011 with my first plogging tweet, although the word didn’t exist back then, so I simply said “look what I picked up while on my run commute.”
Why did I start doing it? I was running along a country lane seeing all the trash in the hedge and thought, “If I don’t pick it up, then who will?”
Like most ploggers, I started by doing it every now and then (a couple of times a week), but in 2019 I made a deeper commitment to myself, to do it every time I play sport. And as I run nearly every day, it has become a daily activity. Just from plogging during my runs I pick up over 100kg of rubbish a month!
What is your goal and who is your audience?
Great question! It has actually changed. Originally I wanted to encourage people to be more aware of the trash problem and take action. I don’t want people to do as much as I do, but to just pick up one piece on a run. With over 600 million runners in the world, we have the numbers to create change!
So, I set out on a journey to inspire. But it has changed over time. I started bringing more of my personality into my posts to try and reach a wider audience but realised from people’s comments that an important part of what I do is to make fellow trash warriors smile. To laugh. And to recharge their batteries which are often depleted.
What has been the biggest learning curve in your professional growth?
Not sure. I don’t think I can really name one thing but instead will say that it is a constant learning opportunity. So, it is made up of constant small learning curves
What are the biggest misconceptions about what you do?
People think of it as a hobby! It isn’t! While I do find it incredibly rewarding to plog, my real passion is running. I would much rather just run and NOT pick up trash! But the commitment is to my kids and to the planet. So, I will continue to do this as long as needed to.
What’s a day in your life like?
Plogging is done in my free time. I am a full time IT business analyst. So my day is like anyone else’s really, except that I get up earlier to run, pick up trash and post my adventure on social media. I find that important. 99% of my social media posts are selfies and taken on the day. I want people to see that I am doing this every day.
One thing that is unusual is that on Saturdays I recreate a movie poster. But I put a plogging twist on it. (So instead of holding a gun, I am holding a gripper with a piece of trash). Those do take a lot of time to recreate, sometimes eight hours, as I first need to collect the trash, take the photos and then create and edit my poster.
Who inspires you?
Most people in some way. There is the potential for good in all of us. And I love how we inspire each other. If I am plogging and someone shouts out “well done!” then maybe I have inspired them. But one thing is certain, they have inspired me to continue. To do more.
Who is someone you want us to know?
I always tell people @cleanmiamibeach @thetrashtraveller, I love them so much. It feels like we have been on this journey for years. But I would also include @ironrootsathletics (tell Eric I sent you), a small vibrant young company dedicated to sustainable plastic free sportswear. Love their gear.
One sustainable product you can’t live without?
Reusable beakers. I have a water bottle and coffee breaker in my bag at the moment (I’m currently sitting on a train). I will also add during the pandemic it has also been a small metal clip, like a clothes peg. I used it while plogging to pick up single use masks thrown on the ground as trash. The clip meant I felt safe picking them up with it and have been able to plog through the pandemic risk free. Litterbugs didn’t stop dropping litter during lockdowns.
One eco-friendly habit you wish everyone practiced?
Yep, it’s going to be the reusable water bottle again. I don’t understand single use water bottles in most countries
What does sustainability mean to you?
A future for my kids. A future for us all.
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed here by Impakter.com columnists or contributors are their own, not those of Impakter.com. — In the featured image: Paul plogging. Photo credit: Paul Waye