With gyms shut, sports on hold and only one hour a day to exercise in your local area, more and more people are taking to the streets to get that much-needed vitamin D.
But have you noticed an increase in rubbish on the ground?
Those behind clean-up initiative Trash Gather have – and they say those daily exercise hours are a perfect time to give back to nature in a COVID-safe way.
Founded in 2017 by a group of concerned university mates, Trash Gather is a grassroots, youth-led initiative which started with a simple mission – to pick up the rubbish on Canberra’s streets and in its nature reserves.
However, the group’s communications officer Jess Fordyce said it goes beyond this and “it’s not just trash for us, it’s also climate justice and climate action”.
As a youth-led organisation, Jess, who graduated from her degree at ANU last year and is now working in waste management and sustainability, said the energy and enthusiasm can be infectious.
In normal times, they host monthly catch-ups where keen volunteers come together to connect with one another and with nature, and clean up areas that need a bit of attention. After the rubbish is picked up, it’s sorted, weighed and the most littered brands are tracked.
The official name for what they’re doing, according to Jess, is ‘plogging’, which she explains is a mixture of the words “jogging” and the Swedish phrase for pick up, “plocka upp”.
“Don’t worry about running, though, you can just walk and pick up the rubbish,” she laughed.
Pre-COVID, each meet-up attracted an average of 30 people and they have around 3000 social media followers who keep up with what they are doing and offer suggestions about where to go next.
“Generally, we work on the Northside because that’s where most of our volunteers are, but we do encourage people to let us know if they see other areas in the Southside or Queanbeyan that need a bit of attention,” Jess said.
And they are also starting to gain recognition on a national scale for what they are doing.
Founder and Jess’s best mate Maddie Diamond was awarded the ACT 2020 Young Australian of the Year for her tireless work as a sustainability advocate.
When Maddie accepted her award, it was Jess who painted ‘Climate Justice’ on her chest for the televised awards ceremony.
Recently too, Trash Gather was awarded an ACT Government grant to run a schools education program called ‘Rubbish Rangers’.
Volunteers attended schools to teach students about plastics and the plastics life cycle.
With the current climate, Jess has a couple of pointers to keep people safe when they go out.
“The golden rule is that you don’t have to pick anything up that you’re not comfortable with – so if you see a dirty mask on the ground, don’t feel pressured to pick it up,” she said.
You need to be wearing gloves, a mask and bring a plastic bag and plenty of hand sanitiser with you, as well as follow the health direction to stay in your local area.
Not only is picking up rubbish an innovative way of getting in some exercise, Jess said it’s great for your mental health at the moment.
“While we are out in nature, it’s a fabulous chance to give back to our beautiful parks and reserves which are probably going to see more visitors than usual at the moment,” she said.
But it can also be a good way to engage the whole family in an activity that means getting out of the house and one that gives you a sense of purpose.
“I think we are all maybe feeling a little bit useless stuck at home at the moment, so why not give it a go?” Jess asked.
The Trash Gather team is keen to see photos of you out and about picking up rubbish (in a COVID-safe manner). Share them using #quaranclean.