BELOIT — Beloit City Councilor Brittany Keyes wants to help make her city cleaner and wants others to join in with a unique fitness trend that doubles as a way to beautify communities across the country.
Plogging is a Swedish trend that combines jogging and quickly stopping to pick up trash along the way. The term comes from the Swedish term “plocka upp,” which means “to pick up.” The trend started in 2016 and has gained widespread interest from concerned citizens across the world.
Keyes founded Beloit Plogging in 2018 after seeing rubbish around the city and learning about the trend on social media.
“I’d always picked up trash here and there, but this was a really great way to do something that only makes our community a better place to live,” Keyes said.
Every year, 300 million tons of plastic is produced worldwid, with over 8 tons of plastic ending up in the oceans, according to One Green Planet, an environmental organization focused on preserving ecosystems around the world.
The staggering numbers of trash and single-use plastics being created each year can seem daunting, but Keyes said plogging has helped get people active and shows just how quickly an area can be cleaned up with the help of a few volunteers.
“There’s a direct impact on your community when you plog,” Keyes said. “You see it. It’s a tangible way you can feel good about helping out your neighborhood and beyond.”
Keyes stressed that not all plogging has to be done at a jogger’s pace, insisting people of all ages can participate at any speed they like.
“This isn’t about jogging or running,” Keyes said. “This is about taking time to make the place you live better, stronger and beautiful. Anyone is welcome and anyone can plog at the pace they are most comfortable at.”
On a sweltering summer morning, Keyes gathered with a small group of volunteers to canvas the near East Side of Beloit for trash. The group came with trash bags, gloves and in the age of COVID-19, masks and hand sanitizer. But not Keyes, she cheerfully walks up with a baby stroller that’s customized with two trash cans and all the needed supplies for the day’s plog.
“I was running and realized that I would have two full bags of trash with me and I couldn’t keep going,” Keyes said of her plogging rig. “Sometimes I would need rides home because I couldn’t carry everything. This helps me go further and collect more trash.”
Most common items found on plogs are food containers and bottles, plus the occasional hub cap. Keyes urged residents to take precautions when handling trash and to properly dispose of items that are found with personal protective equipment like gloves.
At the end of just an hour-long plog, the small group of volunteers collected nearly a dozen garbage bags full of trash.
Plogging has a way of getting people to take a closer look at their surroundings. Just ask retired School District of Beloit teacher Penny Rabuck.
She’s been plogging for nearly two years and recently posted a photo of trash bags she collected on social media. From there, a friend in Monroe saw it and got her family involved.
“Brittany’s got our minds thinking differently when we are out on walks,” Rabuck said. “It doesn’t take a lot of people and it’s a great way to stay active and do something good.”
Keyes said those interested in plogging for the first time should consider cleaning up streets they normally walk or run along before branching out to other areas. She stressed that all ploggers should obey traffic laws and be alert when picking up trash near a roadway.
Due to COVID-19, Beloit Plogging has scaled back events, but don’t expect that to slow down the growing number of volunteers trying to make Beloit a more beautiful place to live. For more information, visit Beloit Plogging on Facebook.