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One Vancouver runner has taken ‘plogging’ to the next level

David Papineau has run every street in Vancouver, picking up over 20,000 face masks

One year ago, Vancouver’s David Papineau was struggling to find the motivation to run. He was looking for a new challenge after running every street in the city. Papineau remembered the reason he originally stayed in Vancouver, his love for the outdoors and, of course, the moderate climate compared to Alberta.

David Papineau (left) with his Distance Run Club. Photo: David Papineau / Strava

Over the next 10 months, Papineau picked up approximately 24,000 face masks off the streets of Vancouver. “On my runs, I couldn’t help but notice more garbage on the ground,” he says. “I began picking them up and recording each one in a spreadsheet.”

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The act of picking up garbage while you run is called plogging, a combination of jogging and the word pick-up in Swedish (plocka upp). It is described as an eco-friendly exercise where people pick up trash while exercising as a way to clean up the environment.

“With more people working from home, there’s more trash in areas you wouldn’t usually expect it,” Papineau says. “Parking lots, bus stations, parks and hospitals have become hotspots for face masks.”

As a runner at heart, Papineau eventually has a goal with his cleaning-up efforts. “I take a lot of pride in cleaning up these masks,” he says. “It’s become my obsession, like marathon running was once for me and other runners.”

Papineau’s equipment – salad tongs and bread bag

Papineau hopes to collect 30,000 face masks by March 30. “That is the day I began the challenge in 2021 – and it motivates me to get out the door and help this city become a cleaner space,” he says. Papineau brings his phone on each run to document each milestone, uploading pictures on his Twitter and Instagram. 

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For those who are looking to start plogging in your local community, it doesn’t take much equipment. A pair of salad tongs, gloves and a durable/breathable bag you can carry. “Don’t get hyper-focused on picking up everything, as you won’t get very far,” Papineau says. He suggests planning your route and picking up just one type of garbage, like coffee cups.

Papineau’s efforts to clean up Vancouver have not been ignored. The type of bag he uses to collect the masks is from a Victoria, B.C. bakery called Portofino. Nick Mulroney, the son of the former prime-minster Brian Mulroney, reached out to Papineau asking about the type of bag, later to find out Mulroney invested in the small Vancouver Island bakery.