Here’s an undeniable sign that people are waking up to the menace of plastic: Plogging is fast becoming a fitness fad in Bengaluru. Athletes and athletic-minded people in the city are driving the trend, picking up trash while jogging and transforming littered stretches into clean trails.
Equipped with gloves and trash bags, these green warriors take part in plogging, especially on the weekends, in groups or solo in various locations across the city.
Burners, a runners’ group formed in July 2014, has 250 members. One of them, Vickram Swamy, said at least 100 members volunteer to plog on weekends at the Jnanabharati campus of Bangalore University (BU). They celebrate the group’s anniversaries with green runs and awareness campaigns.
Runners from League of My Own plog and spread awareness. Sunil PV, a techie, said at least half of the 45-member group assemble at Jnanabharati for the purpose once in three months.
Last October, they handed over plastic and paper they had gathered to the university’s waste-processing unit. They organised a drive near Gandhi Bhavan on the campus in December to spread awareness that prevention is the key to combat littering. Both groups collaborate with the walkers’ association, which has been active in ridding the campus of trash. Runners 360 has targeted Rani Channamma Grounds in Jayanagar and HSR Layout. Shreyas Karnad, founder and head coach of the 150-member group, said they collected two tractor-loads of trash from a stretch of just 1km in HSR Layout last December.
“Many public places are littered with empty sachets of paan masala and cigarette butts,” he said of the gravity of the problem, which has now prompted them to cover Lalbagh and Cubbon Park once every three months.
The exercise is proving contagious, with even residents joining in the plogging. Priya Muthukumar, of HSR Layout, said she is more than happy to be part of such drives. “It’s gratifying to practice what you preach,” said Priya, who runs Storipur, a platform to tell stories, especially about the environment, to children.
Beng alur u-based ploggers set a Guinness record by collecting 33,355.6kg of plastic in a 12-hour drive organised by BBMP on Gandhi Jayanti last year, the fourth anniversary of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan.
Residents of different localities in Bengaluru joined hands with various groups including Go Native, plog.run, Namma Nimma Cycle Foundation and Let’s Be The Change to make the event a sweeping success.
Event managers say ‘BYOB’
Since its inception in 2014, NEB Sports has done away with pet bottles and paper cups while helping runners hydrate, opting to place reusable steel cups and water dispensers along the route instead. Noting that the company will be organising the sixth edition of its flagship Bangalore Marathon this year, NEB Sports MD Nagaraj Adiga said, “No one is complaining.”
Adiga, a runner himself, decided to change the scene for the better after seeing the large quantities of pet bottles that each run generated. “We place around 500 steel cups at every kilometre along the 42km marathon route. Given the number of participants, we avoid tens of thousands of bottles,” he said. “We also serve food to participants with reusable cutlery.”
Plastic-free marathons, made famous by athletes in Bengaluru, have become a talking point at events in other cities. “Use-and-throw bottles is a pet peeve of runners, so they usually bring their own sippers,” Adiga said.
Dinesh Kumar of Fit I AM, which has since 2013 hosted eight to nine events annually, said, “We too provide steel cups and dispensers at pitstops. We tell participants in advance, ‘bring your own bottle’ (BYOB) or use our dispensers, each of which is manned by two volunteers.” The gym-running group is working out ways with its sponsors to avoid flex banners/standees, so its events are 100% plastic-free.
Procam International — promoter of internationally acclaimed events TCS W10k, Tata Mumbai Marathon, Airtel Delhi Half-Marathon and Tata Steel Kolkata 25K — believes in the 3Rs to avoid plastic: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. Procam does not use plastic for anything (it even packs medals in cloth pouches and employs reusable high-density polyethylene bags to collect trash) while sticking to the BYOB concept.