Wānaka Sun       

MAC student run towards a litter picking mission

Posted at 5:49am Thursday 05 Sep, 2019 | By Ollie Blyth journalist@thewanakasun.co.nz

“You're out there anyway, so why not make it a better place,” said Year 13 Mount Aspiring College student Bella Thomsson, who is on a litter picking mission to make Wanaka a clean and green place. She has set out to spread a new Swedish initiative, called plogging, which encourages people to pick up litter while jogging or walking. 

The term ‘plogging' is a combination of the Swedish words ‘plocka upp' (picking up) and ‘jogga' (jog); it was coined by founder Erik Ahlström who was concerned with the rapidly increasing rate of plastic pollution in the world around him. “I was shocked by the amount of junk there was in nature,” said Ahlström. “It felt good in my heart to clean up even a small place.” At the beginning of 2019, Ahlström participated in a 45 plogging session, including one in Wanaka, with eager locals participating in his world plogging tour.

Thomsson is educating locals about the initiative through the school's ‘Students in the Community' programme, where Year 13 students are encouraged to give back to the Upper Clutha community. During her own experiences plogging, she has noticed that Wanaka is no different to the rest of the world in terms of plastic pollution. “What I find the most of has to be packaging, for food especially,” she said. “Takeaway cups and containers that are littered on the beach… When it rains, plastic is swept into the lake and then flows into the Clutha [River], eventually ending up in the sea, having a profoundly negative impact on marine wildlife.”

As well as encouraging locals to pick up rubbish, Thomsson wants to stress that plogging is not the only solution. “I think it's also important to be more mindful when we are consuming, looking for options with minimal plastic and environmental footprint. Even if we challenge ourselves just one day a week to produce as little plastic waste as possible, we are heading in a better direction.” 

Those interested to learn more about Thomsson's mission can visit her plogging booth at the Mitre10 Wanaka Festival of Sport and Recreation at the Wanaka Recreation Centre on September 15.

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