Athletic and environmentally aware people of Budapest had an opportunity to connect jogging with litter picking in downtown on September 6, Saturday afternoon. The weekend plogging was organized by Magyar Telekom together with experts from JÖN Foundation and the adidas Runners Budapest team. Report by Noémi Szabó.

Plogging: the latest hobby for “decent” people. The reason it became trendy and the reason its popularity is spreading so fast is that city streets are often overflowing with trash because of “indecent” people who litter. There are many who refuse to tolerate this any longer, so they came up with this litter picking technique which doubles as exercise.

This “new trend” started in Sweden in 2016, and after gaining popularity there, people around the world quickly took notice, including in Hungary. Here, the TeSzedd! (PickItUp!) movement has been looking for and coordinating volunteers who wish to pick litter in an organized fashion since 2010 – this was the closest thing we had to plogging, but nowadays, plogging is similarly popular in Hungary.

You too can organize a plogging event!

A successful litter picking event requires some preparation, but anybody with a strong determination and desire to act can organize one. Information and experiences about the organization of Saturday’s event might help you realize your own event. The organizers talked not only about the implementation, but also about the history of the event and their goals, and some participants shared their view of the event and their experiences.

Who organized Saturday’s plogging event and how?

Saturday’s plogging was implemented by Magyar Telekom on the occasion of the 12th Sustainability Day. However, they were not alone in the planning and the implementation: the JÖN (Jövő Öko-Nemzedéke, Eco-Generation of the Future) Foundation and the adidas Runners Budapest team helped.

Source: Magyar Telekom

By organizing the plogging event, the goal of Magyar Telekom was to raise awareness to environmental protection in this way too. They’d like to bring about a change in attitude among the population by clearing parts of downtown of plastic waste and other trash. Plogging combines two areas of major importance for the company: sustainability and sports.

“The love of sports and our dedication to running is nothing new. We’ve been supporting one of the most popular running events, Telekom Vivicitta, for over 20 years. We are proud that this year’s event could inspire others with positive examples, people who don’t look for excuses, who overcome themselves each day, defy any circumstance, thus turning will into action,” said Flóra Németh, the company’s senior PR manager, to my question about previous events at the company.

Telekom, the main organizer, wanted to involve credible professional partners in the coordination of the litter picking initiative. They’ve been cooperating with the JÖN Foundation for years and also support the organization with the hello holnap! (hello tomorrow!) app. Adidas’ plastic-free initiative aligns with Telekom’s sustainability goals, so the plogging was led by coaches of AR Budapest.

The JÖN Foundation

The JÖN Foundation was established in 2017 with the purpose no less than to engage people and provide opportunity for those looking to act; all this for a cleaner, healthier environment. The Foundation’s activities include hulladekvadasz.hu (a nonprofit dedicated to mapping and reporting illegal waste sites), a cigarette butt pick-up campaign and the Háztartásom hulladék nélkül (My Waste-Free Household) blog.

“What are the five steps essential to organizing a successful plogging event? Choosing the right time, finding an easily accessible location, consulting with the local authorities and the site’s proprietor, announcing the event at the right time on the right platform, and finally, arranging for the transport of the collected waste,” writes one of their experts, environmental engineer, founding member and Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the JÖN Foundation Péter Szebenyi at szemetszedes.hu. The success of the many similar events organized by the foundation clearly proves that following these five steps lets you organize an excellent community plogging.

JÖN already organized a plogging event in the capital in 2018, also on Sustainability day. The event was successful and spectacular: 15-20 volunteers collected numerous bags of waste, which was then transported by Belváros-Lipótváros Városüzemeltető Kft. This year’s route was defined based on these experiences.

“JÖN, who provided the professional background of the main organizer of September 14 event, held, among other things, a safety briefing for the participants. In addition, they provided participants with reusable gloves and biodegradable garbage bags,” said Péter.

adidas Runners Budapest

Another organization contributing the success of the event is adidas Runners. It is an international runners’ community that operates globally and reached Hungary in 2017. They have bases in major cities of many countries around the world, including in Budapest. Their goal is not only to promote running, but also to create a tenacious team whose members love sports, look to develop themselves and form friendships. All this, the variety of training sessions and venues, the organized outdoor running events, and the AR T-shirts symbolizing togetherness, is there for everybody free of charge, opposite to WestEnd, at 10-12 Váci str, Budapest.

The organization has a history of enhancing some of their everyday running sessions by litter picking. Adidas also contributes a lot to prevent the creation of waste and to recycle plastic waste. This is why they’ve become organizes of Saturday’s plogging.

One of the team’s captains, Alexandra Radványi and two coaches, Fanni Nagy-Mélykúti and Áron Kiss, led a warm-up before and stretching after plogging.

The result of all this: the experience of Saturday’s event

Source: Magyar Telekom

About the success of the event, Telekom HR expert Ágnes Sziget said: “Everything went very smoothly. This was mainly due to the fact that Telekom asked highly professional partners to help realize the event. The JÖN Foundation drew our attention to all important details in advance: we what to expect during the run and what to look out for. And adidas Runners provided full sports professional support: they held a common warm-up and stretching to help avoid injuries and kept the team together along the route. Throughout, it felt like I was at a professional event.”

Source: Magyar Telekom

Telekom is pleased with the results: “We collected more than 30 bags of trash in just one and a half hours, a great result in my opinion. But perhaps more important to me and to Telekom, is the awareness-raising power of plogging. A lot of people downtown saw us run and pick up litter, many were surprised and wondered what we were doing, and mothers explained to their children what was happening. I trust that we were able to make them interested in sports, health and aspects of sustainability.”

Source: Magyar Telekom

Ágnes told that she saw an astonishing amount of litter while running. The most shocking to her was the number of cigarette butts, but she also saw lots of PET bottles, glass bottles and plastic straws. She had a really good time as a participant. She goes to footraces or community running events almost every week anyway, but plogging offered her even more than these, since she did something that’s useful not only for her own health but also for the environment. This was the first time she took part in plogging, and she hopes she’ll have the opportunity to join similar events in the future.

Sources are here, here and here.

Source of featured image: Magyar Telekom

The article was originally published in issue 05/2019 of ZIP magazine.

Translation by Ádám Hittaller

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