Picking trash is a healthy hobby

I admire people who manage to go out daily for a walk or a run. One good example is my 90-year-old mother who some weeks after a hip replacement surgery continued with her daily two walks, although shorter ones in the beginning.  My 83-year-old mother in law stopped with her regular runs a couple of years ago and moved to daily walks.  She also engages in gymnastics on her living room floor half an hour before breakfast.

Of course I also feel responsible for my own health and weight maintenance, but walking and running is boring – especially alone. It is often difficult to find a training buddy, because people have different daily rhythms, and I travel a lot. Some people get a dog that motivates them to go outdoors, but a dog would not fit into my current life situation.

Sometimes I manage to get outdoors by combining a walk with my interest in environmental protection. I select a suitable route either in a forest or on a road and pick up the trash there. On these walks I bring a pair of gardening gloves and 5-6 plastic bags that I have seen found on previous trash-picking walks.

When picking up trash, I sort it immediately into different bags, which I store in our garage until I take them to the local recycling center. Usually, in less than a hour, I fill one bag with aluminum cans, a second with tin cans, a third with glass bottles and jars, a fourth with unrecyclable trash and a couple of bags with plastic bottles as well as other plastic products.

Trash that disgusts me most is dog poop packed in plastic bags by dog ​​owners/walkers. Somehow I still understand that illiterate farmers in Thailand or in another developing country pack their human poop in plastic bags and leave them in the wild. Some dog owners in the western civilization do not understand that the decay of ordinary plastic in the nature takes hundreds of years and breaks down in micro-particles that risk ending up in animals and fish that we eat. Luckily packaging materials made from organic materials are being developed. For example the Finnish R&D Company Sulapac has obtained promising results. My dream is that one-day all harmful plastics will be banned.

Photo by Chris Jordan: A dead albatros with a stomach full of plastic trash.

After my trash-picking walks I feel uplifted. Working outdoors in the fresh air affords varied workouts, such as bending repeatedly and sometimes carrying heavy trash bags. Moreover, I am satisfied that I have contributed, albeit in small measure, to nature conservation.

I recommend trash picking walks to anyone interested in good bodily mobility and flexibility. I also recommend joining the worldwide litter movement, which Tuula-Maria Ahonen established with her daughters in Helsinki in 2000.

Photo: @Chris Jordan, 2009. The dead albatross chick in the Midway Atoll Protected Area was full of plastic trash.

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