Britain cleaned up in the first ever Litter Picking World Cup, with a British team bagging 83kg of waste in just 45 minutes in Japan.
Alexander Winship, Jonathan Winship and Sarah Parry, competing under the team name The North Will Rise Again, defeated twenty countries in the Spogomi World Cup, held today in Tokyo’s bustling Shibuya district.
The trio managed to blow the other competitors out of the water, winning by almost 3,000 points after collecting 61 pounds more waste than their closest rival, Japan, who finished in second place.
Mrs Parry, 28, told The Times: ‘It’s such a good sport. It’s so strategic and intense; physically, psychologically. It’s about real teamwork, it’s absolutely exhausting.
“You only get a certain number of bags. You have to decide which type of litter to pick up depending on how many points each category is worth.”
Alexander Winship, Jonathan Winship and Sarah Parry, who took home three gold medals after winning the Spogomi World Championships
The British team, called The North Will Rise Again, managed to collect 83kg of waste from the streets of Shibuya, Tokyo
Competitors armed with gloves, metal tongs and plastic garbage bags must collect as much litter as possible in just 45 minutes in a small 3.9 square kilometer area of Shibuya, known for having two of the busiest train stations in the world.
They then have 20 minutes to clean up their waste and are awarded points based on the type and amount of waste collected.
Combustible and non-combustible waste earn 10 points per 100 grams, cans and bottles 12 per 100 grams and PET bottles 25 points.
Cigarette butts, meanwhile, are the most valuable waste to collect, as players can earn 100 points per 100 grams.
Each team is closely monitored by a referee to ensure they do not break the strict rules.
Participants are not allowed to run through the streets, nor are they allowed to search trash cans or shadow other teams.
Mrs Parry, a doctor, managed to reach the final in Japan by winning the London qualifiers, held at Hackney Downs, east London, after her brother won the heats in Brazil.
She and her partner Alexander, along with his brother Jonathan, managed to beat the 25 other teams competing against them in London after becoming ‘heavily invested’ within five minutes of the start.
The British team had to prioritize items, including scrap metal, as they could retrieve heavier items more quickly
21 teams from around the world flew to Shibuya, Tokyo, to participate in the world championships
The British side blew Japan – the closest team – out of the water and managed to collect 61 pounds more waste
Parry said she and her team had to prioritize items, including scrap metal, because they could pick up heavier items more quickly.
She added that her small stature gave their team an advantage, as she could fit into the nooks and crannies of Shibuya.
‘What I can’t do is carry 50kg, so we worked as a team. At one point, Alex was carrying about 40 pounds of trash for two miles, while Johnny and I just walked around him and added to the pile as we could.”
Ms Parry, who has run 31 marathons, said the level of exhaustion was comparable to that of running 26 miles.
Spogomi founder Kenichi Mamitsuka started picking up litter on his morning walks and realized that setting goals could turn it into a fun activity.
He organized his first competition 15 years ago and takes the title from the words ‘sport’ and ‘gomi’ – Japanese for nonsense.
He said watching the event’s first world championship was “like a dream” but he optimistically believes it can grow to an even bigger scale.
“If you create national spogomi associations, my ambition is that it can become an Olympic demonstration event,” he shared, revealing some of the nearly 1,200 pounds of waste collected by the participants.
He said he believed changing the way people think about waste was key.
At first, people thought he was “making fun of activities that contribute to society,” he said. But then he started hearing stories about people getting involved and passing on good habits to their children.
“It made me think I should keep going,” he added.
“Our goal is to have spogomi events in 50 countries by 2030.”