Bengaluru: “Pick,run, jog, plog," chanted a mascot, wearing a bright orange bib with students, volunteers and the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (city civic body) commissioner joining in to pledge to declog Bengaluru’s obsession with plastic. More specifically, one-time use of plastic.

Hundreds more joined in batches, carrying sacks full of plastic gathered from their almost three-kilometre run around the city’s business district.

Borrowing from the Swedish concept of ‘Plogging’ that means picking up trash while jogging, many citizens came together for the first ever Plog Run event in the city on Tuesday — the birthday of Mahatma Gandhi — to raise awareness regarding the use of plastic. At last count, over 7,000 people across 55 neighbourhoods had registered to be part of the Plog Run.

“The root of the problem is one-time use of plastic," according to Prashanth Prakash, chairman of United Way Bengaluru, a not-for-profit organisation involved in trying to empower local communities in civic activities.

Home to over 10 million people, Bengaluru, one of the fastest growing cities in the world, faces innumerable challenges, including pressure on existing infrastructure, depreciating quality of the environment such as green cover and lakes, rising pollution levels and the problems of not being able to deal with its waste.

With little or no infrastructure to safely dispose off waste or recycle, Bengaluru, known as the ‘Silicon Valley of India’ grapples to deal with the over 5,000 metric tonnes of garbage it generates every day. Of this, plastic accounts for around 20%, organisers of Plog Run said.

Like other urban centres of the country (and globally), Bengaluru’s consumption includes considerable amount of commodities wrapped in plastic such as packaged drinking water, condiments and even online merchandise that comes wrapped in layers and layers of non-biodegradable material that ultimately finds its way to some street corner of the city.

“Unless you get civic sense, any amount of technology is useless," according to Vaibhav.I.K, a software professional. Technology, however, has been limited (at least in the case of Bengaluru) to innovation in making new forms of plastic but not enough effective ways of dealing with it."

Plastic drinking water bottles and packets was one of the main sources of pollution of lakes and other water bodies as seen in the aftermath of recent floods that devastated the neighbouring state of Kerala and Kodagu district in Karnataka.

The city’s civic body, long been criticised for being in the grip of a ‘garbage mafia’, has done little to help over the decades.

Bengaluru took a step towards clearing the city’s billboards and flex usage to reduce the use of plastic, but failed to deal with the garbage generated, replacing its historical monikers like ‘Garden city’ with ‘Garbage city’.

“We have set up 179 dry waste collection centres wherein plastic that is collected is recycled," according to Manjunath Prasad, BBMP Commissioner. Despite having a budget of around 10,000 crore this year, the civic body continues to depend on private organisations to deal with the waste generated in the city.

But participants remain focused.

“I am the problem. We are the problem. The solution is also within me," said Sunil.K.G. of the Namma Nimma Cycle Foundation.

He then goes back to chant a few more slogans with students and volunteers joining in. “Refuse, Reduce, Recycle, Reuse and Remove" are the five that can help deal with the problem of plastic, he said.

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