Across mainland China, ‘plogging’ is all the rage as more people become eco-conscious

  • The new trend in environmental protection has joggers picking up rubbish while exercising outdoors
  • A new survey finds Gen Z and millennials in emerging economies are more into sustainable consumption than their peers in developed countries
Xinhua |

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Do you even plog, bro? Photo: Shutterstock

Picking up litter while exercising outdoors may not be an obligation, but some environmentally-conscious youngsters in mainland China view it as a social duty.

In 2019, Xu Jia, 35, from Yinchuan, capital of northwest China’s Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, spotted a poster for a “plogging” activity and immediately decided to join in.

Plogging refers to the act of picking up trash while jogging. It combines the Swedish term “plocka upp,” which means “to pick up,” and jogging.

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With a bag, a pair of gloves, and maybe even tweezers, joggers beautify their running paths while burning extra calories.

Xu’s son, a first grader, now runs to pick up litter whenever he sees any while he is outdoors. “My son cares for the environment. It is perhaps our biggest gain from participating in plogging,” she said.

He was just four years old when he started plogging. Now the boy is a veteran plogger and often teaches other kids how to plog.

Plogging isn’t as intense as normal jogging, since you need to frequently stop and pick up rubbish. Photo: Shutterstock

“The environment in Yinchuan is constantly improving, and there’s not much garbage on the roadside. It’s fun to see children rushing to pick up rubbish,” Xu said.

Pan Chuang, who works at a local hospital, created a plogging group in Yinchuan.

“Compared with professional running clubs that focus on speed and endurance, plogging is a less intense activity, so both children and the elderly can take part,” Pan said.

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Pan is responsible for mapping out the running course. Their route passes through several buildings packed with many tiny shops and food stands that generate a lot of trash.

The group has hundreds of members, and Pan is still working to expand its scale.

“We plan to set a new route around several universities this year and invite staff members from the garbage-sorting department to give lectures to attract more participants,” Pan said, adding that though Yinchuan is becoming cleaner, there’s still a need to raise the public’s awareness about environmental protection, as cigarette butts can frequently be spotted on the ground.

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Plogging is no longer a novel thing in China. Pan said the club he joined has sub-groups in 19 cities, including Chongqing, Shenyang, Hangzhou and Hefei, and the scale of membership has only continued to grow.

A plogging mega-event has been running for four consecutive years in China. “Plogging 2021” attracted over 25,880 participants in 256 cities, and together they collected more than 3 tonnes of plastic packaging, reducing carbon emissions by about 4.2 tonnes.

The popularity of such events echoes the growing awareness of environmental protection among Chinese youths. A survey by the Credit Suisse Research Institute released in February this year shows that young and middle-aged consumers in China rank third in the world in embracing sustainable development.

Plogging has been embraced around the world, not just in China. Photo: Shutterstock

The survey, which polled 10,000 people aged between 16 and 40 about their awareness of environmental issues, stated that 60 to 80 per cent of Chinese consumers polled would opt for sustainable transportation and vacation options.

According to the survey, Gen Z and millennials in emerging economies are more into sustainable consumption than their counterparts in developed countries. Mexico, India and China have the highest proportion of environmentally conscious consumers who see the need for more regulation and are willing to pay a premium for sustainable products.

“Each time I see a new face [while plogging], I have a sense of accomplishment, even more so when children participate alongside their parents,” Pan said. “Not only it is a challenge for them to run a certain distance, but it also deepens their care for the environment. This is the meaning of plogging.”

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