Lawyer and Dog ‘Plog’ to Raise Recycling Awareness

PLOGGING Sportsman and lawyer Gonzalo Chiang and his pet Sam pick up plastic bottles during a plog run at Cerro San Cristobal in Santiago on Tuesday, March 12, 2024. It is still dark, but Chiang and his dog are out jogging and collecting rubbish in Santiago’s largest park. Chiang, 38, is on an individual quest to promote the practice of ‘plogging’ — picking up garbage while on the run — in a country where recycling lags far behind the Latin American average. AFP PHOTO
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Santiago, Chile: Plogging for a Cleaner Environment

In the early hours of the morning, while the city is still enveloped in darkness, Chilean lawyer Gonzalo Chiang and his loyal companion, Sam the border collie, embark on their daily routine. They jog through Santiago’s largest park, not only for exercise but also to collect rubbish along the way. This unique practice, known as “plogging,” is aimed at promoting environmental consciousness in a country where recycling rates fall below the Latin American average.

Chiang, at the age of 38, has been plogging with Sam for the past two years, making them pioneers of this movement in Chile. The term “plogging” originated in Sweden in 2016, combining the words “jogging” and “plocka,” which means “to pick” in Swedish. It gained recognition when it was included as a noun in the Collins Dictionary in 2018.

Chiang firmly believes that small actions can have a significant impact on the environment. He emphasizes, “Every day, with the daily walking of the dog… one can make a big difference.” This sentiment is particularly relevant in Chile, where the recycling rate for nonhazardous waste stands at a mere 3.1 percent, according to the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC). This figure falls below the regional average of 4.4 percent.

To inspire others to join his cause, Chiang diligently documents his efforts and shares them on social media. In the span of 110 weeks, he has covered a distance of 4,126 kilometers (over 2,560 miles) while collecting an impressive 19,071 plastic bottles and 8,512 aluminum cans. His dedication serves as a tangible example of the impact that individual actions can have on the common good.

Chiang and Sam dedicate four days a week, spending two hours each time, to plogging in Santiago’s Metropolitan Park, affectionately known as the Parquemet. Armed with a pincer stick, Chiang collects the litter he finds and places it in two plastic bags that he carries with him on every run. Sam, on the other hand, carries a saddlebag specially designed to hold cans and bottles, showcasing his training and commitment to the cause.

Upon completing their plogging session, Chiang and Sam make a stop at a recycling collection point to dispose of their stash responsibly. This act of delivering their findings serves as a concrete testimony of the impact that one person can make on a daily basis. Chiang emphasizes the importance of individual action in creating a cleaner environment.

Not only is plogging beneficial for the environment, but it also brings joy and health benefits to Chiang and Sam. Chiang admits, “Exercising with Sam is something that entertains me a lot.” He further acknowledges that Sam’s presence garners more attention and online engagement than himself. In fact, Sam’s popularity led to his image being featured in a 2022 pamphlet issued by the Metropolitan Park, where he was dubbed “the superhero of the Parquemet,” further promoting the message of recycling.

Chile has faced significant challenges in waste management. In the 2018 World Bank report on global waste management, Chile ranked second, after Mexico, as the Latin American country generating the most household waste per capita, with a staggering 1.15 kilograms (2.53 pounds) per day. However, there has been progress since then, with the figure reduced to 990 grams per person in 2021, according to Chile’s Environment Ministry. These improvements indicate that recycling efforts are slowly taking root in the country.

Gonzalo Chiang and his faithful companion, Sam, are shining examples of the positive impact that individuals can have on the environment. Through their dedication to plogging, they inspire others to take action and contribute to a cleaner and more sustainable future. Their efforts serve as a reminder that small actions, when multiplied, can lead to significant change.

Source: The Manila Times

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