The joy of plalking – or should that be plawking?

Squashed can

A blog that has nothing to do with marketing.

I wrote this for my local parish magazine and it got a nice response so I thought I’d share it here.

Some of the jokes are a little parochial but the general sense should be familiar to many.


It may have escaped the notice of the casual reader, that Waltham St Lawrence and Shurlock Row have become something of a hotbed for the Swedish practice of Plogging and Plalking.

I confess, I thought I was the only plalker in the village until I discovered a small, discreet local Facebook group, where I met several other likeminded people. They were friendly, welcoming but perhaps a little embarrassed to open up about their specialist interests.

Fear not, however. Plogging is not one of the activities allegedly enjoyed by those who visit Maidenhead Thicket with remarkable frequency. It is, rather, the practice of jogging, whilst picking up litter (from the Swedish, plocka upp so Wikipedia tells me). Sharper readers will no doubt have realised that plalking is simply a more sedate version of the same.

Many swear by the health benefits of plogging and plalking, combining as it does some cardio exercise with enough bending and stretching to provide a decent workout.

My motives in taking it up were less noble. My wife, Sue, and I will walk a circuit around the two villages, often several times a week.  I ruminated on a way I could turn this to my advantage.

Lacking the funds to secure a title through the traditional route of a major donation to a political party, I figured if I was observed doing something for the benefit of my local community, I was bound to be spotted by grateful locals and be nominated for a gong. I understood a Knighthood would be unrealistic, but I reckoned one of the minor awards they normally reserve for second tier Olympians or treaders of the boards should be well within my grasp with the right nominations behind me.

But looking on the Waltham St Lawrence Facebook page, I discovered several other people doing exactly the same thing with no expectation of any thanks or reward beyond the opportunity to live in a tidy village.

Mugs.

We all find we can easily collect at least one carrier bag full of rubbish every time we make our way around the neighbourhood, which in many ways is a bit depressing. But equally I feel defeated on the rare occasions I return home with an empty bag, thinking, “Who’s been working my patch?”.

I think we’ve all come to the conclusion that most – but by no means all – of the rubbish littering our local landscape is left by visitors driving through the villages and finding the opportunity to be a tosser too difficult to resist.

I thought it might be instructive to analyse the materials I most commonly encounter on my plalks in case we can identify any of the culprits or think of any deterrent.

So here we go litter pickers. My personal, non-scientific countdown of the most commonly discarded rubbish on the streets, hedgerows and ditches of Waltham St Lawrence and Shurlock Row.

(Teenagers may wish to place “At the Sign of the Swingin’ Cymbal” on their platters at this point).

Bubbling away in the top ten we have disposable coffee cups, water bottles, sandwich boxes and various fast food packaging.

But what are the five worst offenders?

Starting at number five we have Wet Wipes (other brands are available). Only a few years ago the corner of a used handkerchief and a bit of mum’s spit was the solution to everything from pen mark on your cheek to a badly grazed knee. These days, people seem to need premoistened tissues for all manner of uses. And once used, rather than bin them they either flush them (causing fatbergs) or in a remarkable number of cases, thrust them into the hedgerows of our villages.

In chart position four: dog poo bags. Belying the oft quoted expression, “No shit Shurlock”, the thoughtful pooch pamperers of the parish are often diligent in collecting their hounds’ deposits into little plastic bags, before hanging them decorously from the trees like scatological Christmas baubles. A couple of people have even invested in bright pink or blue bags to add a touch of colour to the local flora. How thoughtful.

At three, we have sweet wrappers, with Haribo clearly having secured more than fifty percent of the local market. Far be it from me to besmirch the reputations of the local ankle biters, but these are most commonly found along School Road. One youngster seems to have a particular taste for some form of blackberry flavoured chew, as the wrappers are frequently found along the length of the road.

In at number two, cigarette packets. Denied the opportunity of sharing their carcinogenic fumes with us in enclosed public places, smokers have decided instead to share the pleasures of their habit by throwing fag packets from their cars. Once upon a time, this might at least have introduced some variety to the street scene. But now all the packs seem to be a uniform dull brown with the exception of a vivid image of a decomposing lung or rotting teeth. I include cigarette butts here too, which, I am told, are more damaging to the environment than the recently banned plastic straws.

And at number one by some distance, it’s drink cans. Soft drinks cans, beer cans and most of all Red Bull cans.

Red Bull may give you wings but apparently it doesn’t give you enough energy to make your way to the nearest bin.

So, come on folks. Help us keep the area tidy by doing a spot of plogging or plalking yourself. It’s perfectly legal and you don’t need much equipment. A plastic bag or two; a pair of gloves if you’re squeamish and a litter picker if you can get your hands on one. I picked up mine (if you can forgive the unforgivable pun) at a quid store in Yorkshire, where we know a bargain when we see one.

I suppose a fluorescent jacket might be a good idea too, though to be honest, I normally give it a miss. If I wore one of those, combined with my unfortunate thuggish appearance I’d be an ankle tag short of the full community service uniform.

I look forward to bumping into you on our spotless streets.

 


The only marketing lesson I can draw from this is the damage the behaviour of antisocial Red Bull drinkers is having on the brand.

I see little effort on behalf of Red Bull to address this. But I guess plalkers and their ilk are not their target audience.