Plogga Interview

Plogga is an environmental and health movement that with a very special and fun approach, started in Sweden in 2016. ‘Plogging’ comes from a combination of the Swedish word for ‘pick up’ – ‘plocka upp’ – and jogging. In this 20 minute interview you’ll find out how to get fit, save oceans and widlife, save tax money and connect with others, through this all-in-one acivity

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Plogging – Pick ‘N Jog

“It’s not that hard to make a change is it? Just bend down and pick it up!”

That’s what Erik Ahlström, the founder of and plogging itself, told us. 

Plogga is an environmental and health movement that with a very special and fun approach, started in Sweden in 2016. The word ‘plogging’ comes from a combination of the Swedish word for pick up – ‘plocka upp’ – and jogging

Plogging is great exercise, burning more calories and creating stronger muscles than just running would. It also sounds like a lot of fun to do with other people, especially if Erik’s oozing-with-positivity attitude is anything to go by. In fact it’s such a fun activity once you do it that it’s currently one of biggest fitness trends in India and also brought 4,500 people together at one time in Mexico to plog. Erik shared his own reasons why he thinks plogging is a top activity.

Five reasons why Plogging is so important:

  1. It gets you moving, in a very fun way. Plogging in groups can often turn into a mini competition, making it easy to do a lot of good work for your health and the environment.
  2. It helps alleviate the world’s oceans. 85% of trash in the sea comes from land waste that gets blown into it.
  3. It saves wildlife. Animals and birds often eat trash when they don’t recognise it as a non food item or find it mixed in with other food items. This can kill them by either starving them to death (they get no nutrition from plastic and metal) or cutting up their insides.
  4. It saves tax money that could be used in a better way. Huge amounts of money are spent on waste collection by governments. 
  5. It creates stronger connections between people. When spaces are clean, people actually have more attention to give each other as it’s not being diverted by surrounding trash!

If you’re now feeling as hyped about plogging as Erik and our host Emil were in this interview and want to support Plogga, consider donating to it. Erik runs the organisation alone and relies on funding to run events for adults and school kids. Become a member of the Plogga foundation too, you’ll get a toolkit on how to start. Most importantly, get out there and start plogging.

Interview Transcript


Every day you and I get bombarded with negative news. And just like our bodies, become what we eat, our minds become the information that we consume. If you want to stay positive, it’s so important that you also listen to stories that inspire you and uplift you. In this podcast we interview leading experts dedicated to solving the world’s most pressing problems. And if you stick around, I promise you will not only be as informed as if you watched the news, you will be uplifted, inspired, and have more positive energy in your life. Welcome to Talks With.


Welcome. Today Talks With… and Plogga is an environmental and health organization from Sweden that are cleaning up the world with a very special and for me fun approach. And you will hear more about that in this interview with their founder, Erik Alstom. Now, Erik, Plogga is, from my understanding, an organization, but it’s also a verb, something that you do, right? Right. So tell me about Plogga. 


Well, as you can tell, the name is rather funny, isn’t it? It comes from a combination of two words put together and then and it’s Plocka  in Swedish and Jog and that becomes Plogga. And at the same time, you don’t really have to run. You only have to change people’s attitude and the way they behaving. 


Could you explain what Plocka means and so that people understand what it’s about? OK, guys, pick, pick. So what do you pick? 


You pick garbage and you find garbage everywhere you will. And I told you I will never be unemployed. And if people start, start picking up the garbage, not picking up, plogging up the garbage, then because trash creates trash in the trash, then it will continue to be more. But if it’s clean. It’s going to continue to be clean. 


Right. Eric, I’ve spoken with you for ten minutes now. You’re one of the more enthusiastic people I have spoken to in a long time. Now, I understand you find joy in going out on a November night in Sweden where it’s one degree and picking up trash and running with a huge smile on your face. But why would anyone else in their right mind take time out of their lives to pick up trash? 


The thing is, it’s such an easy activity, and plogging burns more calories than normal running and and as I said, with knowing comes caring and with caring come changes. People probably don’t know that the trash that you find on the streets. I can tell you what that one will end up, because Plogging, it’s five reasons why it’s so important. So it’s not only picking up garbage. 


Well, now you have my interest, what are the five reasons, OK, number one, we’ve been picking up garbage for a long time, but we’ve never really been plogging. 


And as you know, people are getting more and more and well now in Corona times, we’re getting more and more and we’re not moving enough. We are made to move. So, Emil, it’s time for you to stand up. 


Stand up, OK? I’m standing up.. OK, so do me a squat like this. All right.


As you know, a 14 year old, you know, I mean, only nine percent of the 14 year old Swedish kids are moving enough and 50 percent of Swedes are overweight. And why is that? Well, we eat. We’re not eating the right stuff and we’re not moving enough. So plogging is an activity. It’s like picking mushrooms. When you start finding the mushrooms, you find them everywhere. That’s the same as trash. Once you start finding it, you will never stop. You will get a plug in eyes and you will see it everywhere. And it’s the things when you start seeing it, you and you would when you start picking it up, you will not never stop. That’s number one. We’re not moving enough, so not the time to move. And there we go. And the right plogga movie is you get really strong legs, but run around with a purpose. 


Run with a purpose. I really enjoyed it. Now, I guess a lot of listeners have never even considered taking trash from the street because it’s not mine. Right. And putting it into a trash can. But what happens with you when you do that? I bet there is some kind of satisfaction. 


Yeah. And in that I will try to create everybody to become proud litter pickers. So why should you be ashamed of picking up garbage? Why should you be ashamed of picking up someone else’s garbage? It should be the opposite that the person that throws away the garbage, he or she should be the one to be ashamed. And especially if you start showing people that you are doing it, you’re not, you’re not paid to do it. You do it because it doesn’t really belong there. So if it doesn’t belong there, because in a way you have this, you buy a piece of the chocolate, you buy the chocolate and you buy the wrappers also. But why should you buy the whole item? So why don’t you bring the whole item with your home? For instance, in Japan, they don’t have litter bins. They bring all the trash home or they bring it in their little box. But in Sweden or in most countries in the world, it becomes like you buy the chocolate bar and the wrapper, but you have to find a trash bag, trash bin. But why is that? Because that’s the way we have it. 


I heard that it was the World Cup in football and the Japanese team cleaned the dressing room afterwards. Yeah, I thought I was a charming story. 


That’s number five. I will tell you the five reasons. That’s one of the reasons why it’s so important for plogging. 


Well, actually, I heard about plogging, but more like plug walking, if that’s a thing from our founder, actually, Eric. So he is the founder of our company. He made 50 million euros before turning 30. But every time we’re out walking on the beach in Malta, he stops to pick up trash and. 


First it. 


It shows me that he’s really humble, he really gross in my eyes when I see he is doing that kind of gesture. 


Yeah, he made me think I think that’s. Do you see that Plogga has that effect, that when someone sees you pick up some trash, that they start thinking as well?


Yeah, the big the big change or the the future explained the big difference is picking up garbage and plugging it. 


When you’re adding when you’re adding the as you know, when you’re training or you’re running, you will get the adrenaline, adrenalin, you will get the endorphins going, so it becomes like a treasure hunt. And it’s when I was noticing that the first time I was doing this with a couple of friends up in Hammerback and actually for about three, three and a half years ago, I noticed something in their eyes. I can see these guys. We were racing for the trash. It becomes like a competition. And then you start who will find the most trash, who will find all this trash and who will find the most valuable or the weirdest trash? And I said, this is not a fake. This is for true. 


We are, you know, running on big smiles. Yeah. Let’s do it. Let’s do it. And it has a lot of people around you. Yes. Cheering you on and you people in cafes or restaurant people give you a high five is such a different energy when you do the blogging activity compared to just picking up garbage. But it has become sort of like a treasure hunt. 


And kids, kids, normally they don’t move, they’re not really good in school and they only spend time on the tablets when they’re more or less fooling them into running and picking up garbage, they become the heroes. So

they’re so proud of Eric. Eric, how long does it take for these plastic bottles to disappear? Said take your four hundred and fifty year for this plastic bottle, but it never disappears. 


It becomes micro plastic and we eat. Three grams are micro micro plastic each week, three grams per week. 


That’s a credit card. That is scary. 


That’s number two. You know, I want to know all of them, but we only have twenty minutes. But keep going. OK, OK. Number one, we’re not moving enough. 


Number two, that’s going to be more plastic in the ocean. That is going to be that is going to be fish. And that’s only three years from now. It’s going to be more plastic in the oceans than it’s going to be fish because most of the trash that’s in the oceans right now, they come from land. Eighty five percent comes from land and it flows in. Can’t come from the streams and blows in. And once it comes to the oceans, it’s impossible, more or less to pick it up. So you had to plug it up before it came to the oceans. Simple as that, because the plastic ones, because it’s getting more and more of this food for the on demand food to go. So we have to change all this, this plastic Industry. Plastic is a great product, but it’s still way too cheap. 


Right, so let’s say someone is listening to this and they am feeling right, OK, I could go out plugging right now, but there is this huge industry that is just making more and more plastic. What can my contribution really do? 


You can first of all. First of all, you had to start taking out the garbage on the streets. OK, that’s number one. And then second of all, you just had to go from both to the consumer and also from the production line. And, for instance, said you should never, you should always bring your own if you go out to buy a cup of coffee. You should always bring your mark to bring it. 


You should never buy a single use plastic. This is so stupid. Yes, bring the bottles, bring a thermos or something. Never buy or use stuff, that is. 


That is not really someone who has thought about it, it’s easy. That’s one of the reasons why it’s getting warmer in Sweden. The trash will increase by 13 percent in one year. Because we’re not cooking in the same way as we did before now. We’re eating it out on demand. We put it in our face, and then we drop it. 


I see, so that’s number two, man. Let me with another one. OK, that’s number two. Let’s do one squad first, ok? 


Ok, OK. 


So then normally when I have my lectures, I ask people to stand on one leg and use the fifth sense and push and put off your shoes and you should be barefoot because one of the problems they’re like trash is getting worse and worse. If you would do the same with your fingers as you do with your feet, you put your feet in a prison 12 hours a day. You put them in shoes that are made, not made for walking. And we walk too much on hard surfaces. We should spend more time in nature than we would not throw away so much garbage. Simple. I agree. Twenty minutes. Let’s go. OK, that’s number two is going to be more, more plastic in the oceans in 30 years if you don’t plug it up. Number three. The wildlife were already killed, 60 percent of the animals were bitten. What do you think happens if you throw out, you drive your car, you have a bottle of aluminum, you throw it out the windows? What would happen to that? Because that bag is in Swedish, that’s what the words would never work in Sweden looked like a war is besides the roads in Sweden. What happened to that aluminum, can you think? 


I. I’m just in a hope that someone is going to take care of it. 


Well, it’s not what happens with aluminium cans, when it comes on the side of the road, someone cuts it. Right. And what happened to it becomes really sharp aluminium. And then the farmers have all these white big balloons. 


And then it comes to the farm farmhouse in the fall, in the winter, and then the cows start eating it, the cows and the horses, they eat these sharp aluminium so that they can cut up inside. So they die. And 99 percent of all all of

some of the seabirds, they eat plastic because they think it’s food, but they starve to death. So one of the reasons why we have so few birds right now, is because they are starving to death, because they eat too much of the plastic and you probably see the oceans are so much full of plastic. And so we kill and so much of that wildlife also.  Yeah. Number four, it costs so much money that someone has to get paid for picking up garbage. I think we could use our tax money for something really better than someone is employed to pick up garbage. Why do people throw the garbage like this? Because they don’t they’re not proud of where they’re living. They’re not proud of where they’re working. They don’t really give a damn. So that’s one of the reasons why. Also, we have to get proud, as you said, as the Japanese at the football field, even though they lost the game, they were proud of being there. So they felt like this doesn’t belong. It doesn’t belong here. 


And how can someone find that proudness and that comes to number five. 


Are you ready for number five? We are number five. I call it the broken window theory. Have you heard about that number? OK, the broken window, several counts actually, from the mayor in New York. And he found it was so much violence, it was so much a crime and it was so much rape. And it was the drug industry which was just growing in New York. How could it change that? How could you make that a better world for New Yorkers to live in? First of all, he was taking away all the graffiti. Second of all, he was taking away all the broken windows. 


And what happened that dropped by the people. He was getting so much crime. The rapes drop also, and people start getting closer connected. It was getting more friendly. They were getting proud of living in New York. It’s if you go to a lecture like say you go to a big football football match, even though you can’t really do that in Carone at times. If you do that and if it’s later in the field or if it’s clean, you and I would get connected more. If it’s clean. If dirty. We can literally get attention. Yeah, yeah, so that’s called the broken window theory. That’s five reasons why this blogging activity is so important. It’s not just picking up litter. It’s just the whole concept of closing the loop in a way. 


Right. And I assume that once you have tried picking up litter, even if it’s someone else’s litter, it’s going to create a mindset of I want my environment to be pretty. I yeah, I look around, maybe you see more beauty. Maybe you want to nurture your environment more. 


And I know that is two battlefields, not the one the battlefield in the cities right now and in Gothenburg, we’re going to do the world clean up day and we’re going to have a big festival, not a festival, but a very big event on Saturday in Gotham Books. 


Everybody’s invited to check our Facebook page because we have different events on Saturday. When it’s World Cleanup Day so it’s very important data to show people that we are really caring about the environment. And that’s number one. We are the battlefield in the streets. It’s getting worse and worse and is also now out of the nature. 


We are getting more and more people out of nature. And a lot of people are not really used to nature. And we can see it’s getting damaged, getting more litter. And no one is picking up the garbage in the nature, of course, because no one is paid to the people paid to do it in the cities, but. 


They don’t have enough people or people are getting more and more lazy. It’s not my trust. I don’t get it. I don’t give a damn. 


Right. And I actually spoke with the organization, I think the organization is called World Cleanup Day, that started a phenomenon and yeah, we were talking about the organization and so on. 


And then I asked her, what is it like at one of those events? And her whole energy changed. She got so excited and spoke of it as a spiritual experience where people come together and there’s a lot of connection. I can imagine that is happening now in Gothenburg where you’re creating this event. 


Yeah. So go and join. Go and join Plogga. 




Now, let’s say someone is as excited as we are right now in this conversation and they want to help somehow our environment, maybe their own health. What are some steps they can do to help themselves, our environment and your organization? 


Well, first of all, we are in the Plogga Foundations, and we have you can become a member and we will supply you with different tools to the toolkit, as we do the Swedish ambassadors all around the world. 


Where did you know where the biggest fitness trend in India is right now? 


Noida. That is blogging, of course. What? Yes. And the world record. 


Where do you think the world records for blogging is India now is actually the Mexicans saying it was a year and a half thousand, four and a half thousand people were blogging at the same time in Mexico. Wow. 


Wow. So I started in Sweden and it spread globally. Yeah. 


So it was me that started, but actually it was my girlfriend from Gothenburg and she had to Guttenberg humor. 


So she made up to me, OK, that is super impressive. So what can someone do to help you and. 


Well, you can look on that page both in Swedish and the English one And we are a really tiny organization. But our aim is I like to have this in all the schools. I like to let the kids go plogging at least six times a year, and if you do that more often than once a year, you will change their attitude. You will change them. So the way they’re thinking, because their brains don’t really accept you only if you only do it once a year. 


So it’s well, we need a lot of funding. I need it, I’m more or less by myself, so it’s it’s a tough job. 


I see. And at the same time, I think it’s hugely important what to do. So I really do hope your visions and dreams become more and more a reality. Eric, thank you so much for taking the time to speak with great dotcom today. 


It’s been a pleasure. And now we can show this. It’s not that hard to make a change is it? Just bend down and pick it up! first step. 


Right. This was fun. And hey, you listening? If you also enjoy this conversation and want to help us out, what you can do is you can go into your podcast app and press subscribe, because if you do, that’s really going to help us to spread and get into different top lists. And then more people can hear these kind of inspiring and uplifting conversations. 


And we see you in the next interview.