With all the trash talk that comes with living in the suburbs, you might wonder what it takes to keep your local community free from rubbish? One group of Footscray locals took that clean-up into their own hands, and now keep the streets clean and tidy one step at a time.

    Born out of an idea on an evening walk, the Footscray Rubbish Runners group was created by locals Des and Lou and launched into action on Clean Up Australia Day in 2018. The two would walk their suburban streets, picking up rubbish as they went, and wondered if given an invitation, that their neighbours might join in the fun. 

    Since their first event, with one other attendee, the Rubbish Runners have grown to host regular gatherings of up to 10-30 people. At each meet, the group will run or walk for about an hour, then meet back at a café — it’s truly a social occasion.

    ‘It’s a bit of a feel-good, nice, social activity. Plus, we meet for a coffee afterward and have a big chat and laugh about all the weird things we all found,’ said co-founder Des Atkinson. 

    On the environmental side of things, the group is supported by Clean Up Australia, City of Maribyrnong, and the Federal Government Communities Environment Program. Each run they submit data about the rubbish collected to app Litter Stopper; in order to influence policy makers, better understand local litter issues and help protect the environment.

    In 2016, the Swedish trend of Plogging — a hybrid term made from the Swedish word plocka upp, meaning to ‘pick up’ and English word jogging —took off, and was seen as a way for runners, hikers, and the casual walker to introduce variety into their daily exercise.

    ‘We’ve since found out about ‘plogging’, which is a more global movement of passionate rubbishy runners. The walking group we have is pretty cool too though, and is actually growing faster than the running group,’ noted Atkinson.

    The benefits are significant — not only does the activity promote health and exercise, it helps to reduce plastic pollution, can save wildlife and also contribute to reduced social services costs; purely by helping to keep public spaces clean!

    A few years ago, the efforts of the Footscray Rubbish Runners gained some notoriety — featuring on TV news. When sharing these stories online, a follower commented that they’d been ‘picking up rubbish for 20 years and never gotten any glory’, so the group decided to create an added incentive — the Glove of Glory. 

    ‘It’s awarded to the volunteer who has found the weirdest thing or gone to the most extraordinary level of effort. There’s been some finds that are absolute doozies… money, bongs, best man speeches, underwear, you name it!’ recalled Atkinson.

    If you’d like to get involved, increase your step count, and help clean up the neighbourhood, you can follow @footscrayrubbishrunners on Facebook and Instagram. Simply bring along some gloves and a can-do attitude — and who knows, the Glove of Glory could be yours! 

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