News05 Jun 2023

On World Environment Day, run to #BeatPlasticPollution


Plogging (© Christel Saneh)

Beat plastic pollution. That's the theme for this year's World Environment Day, a global call to beat back our addiction to plastic – one that produces around 430 million tonnes of plastic each year. Of that, two-thirds are products designed for a short life, such as the 1.5 billion single-use plastic bottles used every day. Or the five trillion plastic bags used annually, a staggering 160,000 every second.

Our reliance on plastic is embedded into every aspect of modern life and while the focus on the waste that plastic produces is on bags and single-use bottles, most plastic pollution is not visible to the naked eye. Tiny fragments are polluting our soil, water and increasingly, our bodies.

But, according to the UNEP's World Environment Day 2023 Beat Plastic Pollution practical guide, plastic pollution is preventable and taking action across all sectors of society can halt and reverse it. The guide provides advice on what individuals can do, the roles that non-governmental organisations, faith-based organisations and community groups can play, and the leadership and influence that science and educational organisations can use to push governments into creating stronger legislation to tackle the plastics crisis.

For runners, one solution is plogging: picking up plastic waste while out on a run. In the video below, Lucy Crookes – a graphic artist on the World Athletics communications team and an avid runner – illustrates how it is done.

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Two tools that World Athletics has developed to assist organisers to produce events in a more sustainable fashion – the Sustainable Events Management System, a best practice guidance in sustainable event delivery for event organisers, and the Athletics for a Better World Standard, an evaluation system that scores events in how they deliver against the World Athletics Sustainability Strategy – both address the plastics waste crisis and provide suggestions and examples in how organisers can reduce the plastic pollution impact of their events.

Organisers of many events are already making the reduction of plastic standard operating practice. At the World Athletics Championships Oregon22, zero single-use plastic water bottles were sold or distributed by the event, which equates to approximately 325,000 single-use water bottles avoided.

The LOC also organised a “Bring Your Own Water Bottle” campaign, encouraging spectators, media, broadcasters and volunteers to use the 35 temporary drinking water stations installed for the event. Additionally, 8000 reusable water bottles were distributed.