The statue of Sir John A. Macdonald stood watch as more than 270 kilograms of trash was accumulated in the center of Place du Canada on September 21. Celebrating World Cleanup Day, participants of a plogging run swarmed the streets of Montréal and added to the pile.

Organized by multiple associations, the event’s fifth edition attracted over 100 participants. Armed with gloves and plastic bags, they split into groups of joggers and walkers to pick up litter for an hour in the city.

“We can all pick up trash,” said James Guilbaud, Run Eco Team ambassador. “Our slogan is, ‘One run, one waste.’ If everyone picked up at least one piece of trash while running or walking, it would have a huge impact on the environment.”

Originating in Scandinavia, plogging comes from the mashup of the Swedish word “plocka upp,” meaning pick up, and jogging or walking.

For participants, like Amandine Sentana, eco-fitness is nothing new.

“I used to pick up litter when I would go on hikes or runs alone in France,” she explained. “But then I discovered plogging while living in Montréal. It’s a great group activity.”

As the teams gathered back at the starting point, a pile of black plastic bags filled the centre of the square. Plastic bottles, cans and cigarette butts were the most common finds for runners.

“We found a lot of cigarette butts on Ste-Catherine Street and we even picked up some that were still lit,” said Linda Lechartier, 37. “It proves that even though people saw us picking up litter, they still threw them on the ground, which is so disappointing.”

The 23 participants, who scavenged the Old Port found no less than 104 kilograms of trash. And, like any treasure hunt, the search led to unusual finds, from a bicycle rim and metallic forks, to a beat-up campaign poster of Justin Trudeau and even a thick blue book on power and ideology in Brazil.

Since 2018, plogging has made its way to countries all over the world. On the streets of Montreal, this quirky workout promotes healthy living, environmental consciousness and community engagement. “At the end of the day, you are saving your planet, you are saving yourself and you are saving future generations,” said Garje.

According to UNESCO, approximately 80 per cent of marine pollution comes from land-based sources.

Meriem Regragui Chiadmi is a nutritionist specialized in food cultures, who is currently pursuing graduate studies in journalism at Concordia University in Montréal.

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