India produces about 25,940 tons of plastic waste daily, out of which 10,000 tons remain uncollected as stated by the Central Pollution Control Board. Plastic materials are generally thrown away carelessly and choke landfills, drains, and rivers which gradually flow into the sea and affect the marine life. Plastic also has devastating effects that all of us have witnessed at various places across the country.
Plastic not only has an impact on water but it also leaps into the soil and contaminates natural environment with poisonous chemicals. These harmful chemicals are also found inside human blood and tissue, exposing them to deadly diseases like cancer, birth defects, impaired immunity, and so on. Therefore it is very crucial to have an effective management of plastic waste.
Sweden’s fitness craze — Plogging in which joggers pick up garbage as they run, to save the environment — is already trending in the West and the social media is abuzz with this new phenomenon. Now metro cities like Delhi and Mumbai are embracing it too.
Organised by United Way India in collaboration with Go Native, India Plog Run is being held on October 2 to make garbage collection fun and healthy and to create a plastic-free environment.
Talking to Manish Michael, chief executive officer of United Way India and Ramakrishna Ganesh, convener of the India Plog Run, we find out more about this initiative and how it combines essential health benefits with a greater determination for mobilising a nationwide response to plastic waste accumulation in public spaces.
Ganesh informs that last year, this particular event was held only in Bengaluru. “Though it was held only in one city, the response was good. The enthusiasm among people was amazing. People like being a part of such initiatives because they are becoming more aware of the damage that plastic is causing to the environment,” he says.
He points out that one more thing that the run has helped is networking. “With our current lifestyles, we hardly know the people who live next door or in the neighbourhood. The plog that we arranged last year actually got like-minded people out of their homes and together, for a greater good,” says Ganesh.
This year, India Plog Run will be held in 50 cities across the country on October 2, 2019 in honour of Gandhiji and to commemorate five years of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan.
Michael points out that the plog is not like any regular run. The campaign aims to combat the increasing threat from plastic pollution by bringing together the most powerful stakeholders in environment conservation: the citizens themselves.
“Every marathon ends with a winner and a medal; what we aim at doing is to make people realise at the end of the run, the amount of plastic that is actually lying around in their neighbourhood and how they all can help at an individual level. They need to understand the gravity of the issue and the difference they can make if they come together as a community. The problem in India is not just the creation o f plastic but also the way it is disposed of. We find people littering around, even the educated ones,” he points out.
Ganesh feels that people have developed a mindset that if they are paying their taxes on time, why should they be the ones who also have to maintain and keep their surroundings clean. “People need to understand that only monetary contribution is not going to help; they need to lead by example, and plogging is actually a simple task to do — you step out for a jog and pick up the litter that careless people have thrown about. Not only are you getting your dose of physical activity by running and bending but are also helping the environment and the other people,” says Ganesh.
Michael adds that by having plogs at the national level, they want to make garbage collection fun, healthy and empowering.
Explaining how the plog is undertaken, Ganesh says that all participants are given Plog Kits that consist of an apron, reusable gloves, masks and a trash bag. “The participants are expected to run, jog or walk for the marked radius of 5 km and pick up the plastic that they see around. At the finish point, the participants can check the weight of the plastic collected by them,” he says.
And the initiative does not just end here. All the plastic waste that is collected, is given over to waste management agencies where it will be segregated and disposed of or reused in the proper way.
The biggest helper for the initiative has been social media, admits Ganesh. “It is heartening to see how social media is helping in spreading awareness for a cause. The traction that it gets from different age groups helps it to reach not only the urban households but also the rural ones,” says Ganesh.
Short-term video app TikTok has joined hands with the India Plog Run 2019 campaign in an attempt to spread awareness about plastic pollution and has launched the hashtag #IAmlessPlastic.
To participate in the India Plog Run, log on to www.indiaplog.run