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April, October dates designated as 'Plogging Weeks'

The weeks of April 21–27 and Oct. 13-19, 2019 have been designated in Cape Elizabeth as Plogging Weeks.

The Town Council endorsed the proposal, endorsed also by the Recycling Committee and requested by Fowler Road resident Bruce Rayner, following a presentation by Rayner at their meeting March 11.

Plogging is happening on any given day or week in Cape Elizabeth and around the world, but Rayner hopes that dedicating two weeks a year to the practice of jogging (or walking or cycling), and picking up trash along the way, will add more fuel to the phenomenon.

"The idea is that we want community members to participate in the plogging activity to help to keep the roads, the trails, the beaches, the beautiful places we all love and cherish in Cape as clean as possible," Rayner said.

Plogging is especially important to us in Cape Elizabeth because of our proximity to the ocean, he said. "As you all know ocean plastics is a significant issue."

Rayner went on to testify that there's plenty to clean up. On New Year's Day, 2019, Rayner jogged the mile from his Fowler Road home to the entrance of Crescent Beach, plogging both sides of the road. He collected 32 pounds of trash, including 54 redeemable bottles and cans, some pieces of polystyrene (a known carcinogen), two windshield wipers and "a lot" of paper, cardboard and plastic, he said.

Cape Elizabeth's State House Representative Anne Carney also spoke to support the proposal, and affirmed Rayner's witness to the volume of garbage. "I like to plog on Crescent Beach and Kettle Cove after a big storm because the waves churn up a lot of trash," she said. "It's amazing how much plastic waste, golf balls, and other things you find, clothing you find on the beach after a storm, and it really is a significant pollution problem."

Carney said she's introduced a bill that would ban polystyrene food packaging statewide, much like Cape Elizabeth's ordinance prohibits the material locally, but, at a hearing on a bill, "there were still members of the environmental and natural resources committee who were denying that plastic waste is a problem here in Maine," Carney said. Dedicated weeks to plogging, and the data they will produce, will help raise awareness and the impact local action can have.

The council voted unanimously to endorse the proposal, leaving coordination and publicity to the Recycling Committee. Rayner said his idea is to place a dumpster at the Recycling Center to collect what Plogging Week participants bring in, and to separate and document what's being found before disposing of it properly. "Measuring the waste I think is a key component," Rayner said. "It's something that Kara Law of the Recycling Committee strongly recommends because it allows us to get information about what's being thrown away, why it's being thrown away perhaps, and also communicate that to the community to try to get them to change their ways."

The designated weeks align with Earth Day (April 22) and Indigenous Peoples Day (Oct. 14), and preceed the extended (Sunday) hours for spring and fall cleanup at the Recycling Center's refuse-disposal area.

Rayner is also founder of Athletes for a Fit Planet, which provides consulting and onsite sustainability services to running, cycling and triathlon events.

One of the Town Council's goals for 2019 is to encourage sustainable community.