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Matt Akehurst - The Rubbish Runner

Cleanup Rubbish

One man on a mission to document and collect the rubbish on his daily 4km run. Could he reach 10,000 pieces in 70 days?

The Rubbish Runner - Photo Credit

What inspired you to begin this project?

I was seeing a lot of rubbish on my runs and one day I thought ‘I need to pick it up’ - it was as simple as that.

What did you set out to achieve?

I wanted to show, that even though our beaches appear clean, if we look closer there is a lot of rubbish there. The project was a simple challenge – on my daily runs, could I pick up 1000 pieces of rubbish on a 4km loop? The time limit was 70 days and on every run I would post the images on my Facebook and Instagram page. You could say it was a disappointing success!

When you aren’t running, what do you do?

I have two jobs; I work as a medical scientist in microbiology and I also run Liberation Jewellery where recycled wood and industrial offcuts are repurposed into beautiful jewellery. In my spare time I work as an artist, mainly sculpture.

Have there been any unintended or surprising outcomes to the project?

The video - which was a collaboration between myself and David Thorpe (who I met via Facebook) and is now being used by Eco Educate as a teaching tool in 123 schools in North Canterbury.

What are the three oddest things you have found out running?

  • Three buckets of engine oil (I called the council and they removed it)
  • A twenty dollar note (Yesssss)
  • A car radiator

The Rubbish Runner Photo Credit

What are the most common items that you find?

  • Bottle caps
  • Bottles
  • Plastic straws
  • Plastic bags
  • Polystyrene
  • Fishing line/nets
  • Takeaway containers/cups
  • Broken down miscellaneous plastic

What is the future for the project?

I have carried on past the 70 days - I am now up to 129 days and over 13000 pieces of rubbish. I am considering a plastic straw challenge where I would spend a month collecting discarded straws at all the spaces and places I visit and travel to.

What can people do to make a difference to costal rubbish?

Love the land we all stand on and be kind to it. Go to the beach and clean up. Use reusable bags, cups, bottles and straws etc.

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