Stay fit while you keep your cities plastic free: Tips from Pune

Plastic waste, discarded everywhere and anywhere. Pic: Vivek Gurav

When 25-year-old Vivek Gurav, working in an IT company in Pune, came across a video of Swedish native Erik Ahlström on YouTube, it struck him that this might provide a way of reducing plastic waste and be a way to bring youth to become volunteers of change.

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“I come from a small village near Kolhapur and I used to swim in the river flowing near my village,” recalls Vivek. In Pune, it saddened him to see the city’s water bodies covered in garbage and plastic waste. “While a student of MIT institute of Computer Engineering in Alandi, Pune, I was aghast to see garbage littering streets, and no one caring about it. So when I watched this Swede talk about Plogging, I thought of doing it on my own. It is good exercise too, while giving you an opportunity to help keep your city clean.”

The word Plogging is a combination of jogging and ‘plocka upp’, a Swedish term which means pick up. The idea, which took hold in Sweden in 2016, gained momentum across the world in 2018 across the world and Vivek took to it in Pune in 2019 on Gandhi Jayanti. Now, plogging is gaining followers in Mumbai, Nashik and Nagpur too.

“Waste management is one of the biggest issues the city is facing, which is accepted by the local municipal corporation,” says Vivek. “But the responsibility to solve this problem does not lie only with the authorities but also citizens, who should be responsible for disposing of waste in the right way.”

Ploggers at work in Mumbai. Pic: Vivek Gurav

Trash banks

Vivek realized the importance of segregation and of removing plastic out of the domestic waste during the flash floods in 2019 when water entered homes near the canal, where drainages were blocked due to plastic bottles and packets.

“I am on a mission to address these issues and involve city residents to fight the growing plastic menace,” said Vivek, who founded Pune Ploggers with a handful of friends as volunteers. Now, at the start of 2021, the organisation he founded has more than 500 dedicated volunteers.

Vivek Gurav has created trash banks where plastic is collected and sent for recycling.

Plogging was mentioned by Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi in his radio programme Maan Ki Baat, and volunteer groups in many Indian cities are now into it.

The lockdown brought all activity, including plogging, to a standstill. But that did not stop Vivek and his volunteers from his mission. “Garbage was still getting accumulated and with less manpower with the Solid Waste Management team, plastic bags, snack packets and wrappers could be seen strewn on the streets.”

He and his team of volunteers decided to install trash banks in the city’s residential societies to collect the plastic waste for recycling. “We are recycling the plastic waste and…

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