David Papineau's plogging booty

The Extraordinary Tale of the 'Vancouver Hoover'

David Papineau is on a mission to rid his city of discarded face masks

27,500 and counting. Not just counting but recording and spreadsheeting! What on earth are we talking about? David Papineau's astonishing achievements and his borderline obsession to rid his community of discarded face masks, that's what.

David is a proud resident of Vancouver, Canada, and a keen marathon and ultra runner who is the man behind the informal Broadway Run Club – basically a group of like-minded friends who simply enjoy training and racing together, rather than a conventional running club.

David ran his fastest marathon (2:44:45) in his home city in May 2009 and completed his 50th marathon on his 50th birthday in Seattle on 25 November 2018 (3:11:41). Clearly, this is a man to whom numbers really matter. 

And so we come to the 'Vancouver hoover' and his mission to clear his home city of all its Covid litter through plogging – the growing trend where runners collect litter on their runs. The name is derived from the Swedish phrase ‘plocka upp’, which combines the words for ‘jog’ and ‘pick up’, and many more people are beginning to show an interest, as shown by the fact the #plogging hashtag on TikTok has had nearly seven million views. 

Greenpeace UK states that estimates put the number of face masks that will end up in the ocean every year at 1.6 billion and it's believed the UK throws out 53 million disposable face masks every day. Single-use face masks are made of various plastics that take up to 450 years to break down and microplastic particles have been found in both the Arctic and Antarctic. Sea birds are at the greatest risk as they get their feet tangled in the straps but the masks can harm a wide range of wildlife.

David Papineau's contribution may be a 'drop in the ocean' but his personal stats are mightily impressive. On his shorter runs of 10K, he says he collects around 50-60 masks, but on one long run he picked up a PB of 428 in a single afternoon! He uses salad tongs to grab the masks and puts them in used bread bags as he runs, then disposes of them safely in rubbish bins.   

"There are masks everywhere in Vancouver", David told Canadian Running. He tracks his mask-collecting in a spreadsheet and his target is to hit 30,000 by the end of March. "It’s become my obsession; like marathon running is for other runners", he says.

Imagine the impact if all the runners in the world added their contribution, even if on just one run per week? David has one valuable piece of advice if you are thinking of joining his mission and that is to focus on one type of litter, such as takeaway packaging, rather than attempting to pick up everything you see, otherwise you’ll quickly be overwhelmed and not run very far.

Image courtesy David Papineau/Broadway Run Club on Twitter

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