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Tong-Wielding ‘Trash Runners’ Fight Litter in Shanghai

Picking up trash while jogging is not everyone’s idea of a good time, but in Shanghai, it’s an increasingly popular way to socialize (and keep litter in check).
Trash runner Kerry Ding holds her tongs aloft on a July run.
Trash runner Kerry Ding holds her tongs aloft on a July run.Ryan Krull

After sunset on a hot July night, the Shanghai Trash Runners moved quickly through a park along the Suzhou River, garbage bags and plastic tongs in hand. They scanned the sidewalk for cigarette butts, bottles, food containers, or any other litter that needed to be plucked from the ground and properly deposited into their bags. Zig-zagging through crowds of people out for evening strolls, through middle-aged dancers moving in sync to patriotic music, the Trash Runners left Shanghai a little cleaner in their wake.

Emelie Holmberg, who is a regular, remarked, “It’s really crowded here tonight. Maybe because of the heat.” She bent down and tonged a stray napkin into her bag. Asked how it works when you’re in the back of the pack—don’t the people in the front pick up all the litter?—she replied, “There’s enough trash for everyone.”