From ‘plogger’ networks to truckers who tidy up laybys, these groups bring a sense of community to litter clearing
After a cancer diagnosis aged 26, Lizzie Carr (pictured) took up paddleboarding as part of her recovery. In 2016, she became the first person to paddleboard the length of England’s waterways, solo and unsupported.
In the same year, she launched Planet Patrol, a non-profit movement and app that aims to stop plastic pollution at source. More than 350,000 pieces of litter have been logged in the app so far, gathering an evidence base for change.
Planet Patrol also plans free-to-join clean-ups all over the world – inland and on waterways, from pick-ups plus yoga, to parkour-based sessions. Carr’s latest campaign – the Big Bag Ban – is petitioning the UK government to bring in an outright ban on plastic bags.
Image: Andy Hargraves
‘Creating ocean activists everywhere’ is one of the slogans of Surfers Against Sewage (SAS), a grassroots movement based in Cornwall that has swelled to become one of the UK’s most visible environmental charities.
Its work has various strands, but a recent project is Million Mile Clean, which was launched to coincide with the emergence from lockdown in the UK. It targets 100,000 volunteers walking 10 miles each and cleaning up as they go. Be it beach, street, river or mountain, track your distance and submit your results on the SAS website, those at the charity ask.
The initiative will last throughout the UN Decade of Ocean Science, targeting a million miles a year. SAS has just 20 full-time staff, and relies on passionate volunteers to amplify its impact.
Image: Surfers Against Sewage
After years of long-distance driving, Martin Burrows decided to do something about the depressing piles of litter he saw every day on motorways and A-roads. He got used to regularly spending 30 minutes out of his cab, gathering rubbish in whatever layby, rest stop or delivery depot he found himself. It was a chance to stretch and take a breather from driving, too.
Then, Burrows set up a Facebook group to urge other drivers to do the same, as well as to show the public that drivers weren’t all to blame for littering, and it snowballed.
Now, Truckers Cleaning Up Britain has nearly 2,000 followers, and hundreds of lorry drivers regularly carry out their own cleans, posting evidence of their efforts online. “Lorry drivers can be part of the solution rather than part of the problem,” says Burrows.
After the craze first took hold in Sweden, jogging while picking up litter has become known as ‘plogging’ – a portmanteau of ‘jogging’ and ‘plucking’.
At GoodGym, a UK-based community of runners and cyclists who combine getting fit with doing good, the number of tasks involving litter-picking surged in 2020. In Birmingham, for example, members clean up the canal network.
Image: Good Gym
Main image: Andy Hargraves