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Which Team's Best at Picking Up Litter? 21 Countries Compete in First SPOGOMI World Cup

The competitive SPOGOMI World Cup highlights the impact of plastics and other litter on our environment and what we can do to help combat its harmful effects.



The SPOGOMI World Cup turned picking up litter into a competition. Participating teams from each country pose for a commemorative photo at the award ceremony on November 22, with the winning British team in the front row. (©Sankei by Kazuya Kamogawa)

On November 22, the Nippon Foundation Social Sports Initiative hosted the first-ever world cup for picking up litter in Shibuya, Tokyo. This novel sport, known as SPOGOMI (スポGOMI), combines picking up trash with sports. SPOGOMI is an abbreviation of supotsu gomihiroi, meaning picking up litter in Japanese). 

Representatives from 21 countries were represented, including the United States, India, and Brazil. Participants collected cigarette butts and empty cans at Shibuya Crossing and other areas around the city.

Kenichi Mamitsuka, who represents the foundation's Social Sports Initiative, conceived of SPOGOMI in 2008. Teams of several members earn points by collecting various kinds of trash. Points vary depending on the type of trash and the team gathering the most points within the time limit wins.

The Spanish team separates the garbage they picked up during the SPOGOMI World Cup.(©SANKEI by Kazuya Kamogawa)
The Italian team watches as the trash they picked up, including cigarette butts, is weighed for the SPOGOMI competition. (©Sankei by Kazuya Kamogawa)

Debris Floating In from the Ocean

Yohei Sasakawa, Chairman of the Nippon Foundation, spoke about the foundation's focus on the problem of marine plastic waste. "Approximately 80% of marine waste is generated on land," he explained. 

Sasakawa lent his support to the project, assisting with organizing and hosting the SPOGOMI World Cup 2023. "The first step in the fight to protect our oceans is to pick up trash," he stressed.

The Japanese team won second place in the SPOGOMI World Cup. (©Sankei by Kazuya Kamogawa)

Mariko Tsunamoto (44), Tomoe Takahashi (46), and Hiroyuki Iego (45) represented Japan in the competition. All three are active in picking up litter along the coast of Niigata City. 

The event commenced at the United Nations University near Jingumae in Tokyo's Shibuya district. After the opening ceremony, the participants began picking up litter in the restaurant and bar district of Nonbei Yokocho and on the streets near Dogenzaka in Shibuya. 

The British team celebrates after winning the SPOGOMI World Cup on .ovember 22. In Tokyo's Shibuya district. (©Sankei by Kazuya Kamogawa)

United Kingdom Comes In First

Team Japan picked up a large number of umbrellas, cigarette butts, and empty cans. Incidentally, they even found garbage in front of a "No Illegal Dumping" sign. 

Japan finished second with a total weight of 55.50 kg of trash. "We want people to know that picking up trash refreshes the heart and spirit," the team members declared.


Team Great Britain took first place. It collected a total weight of 57.27 kg. 

Beatrice Hernandez, a Team US member, said, "Sometimes it was really hard because there wasn't really that much trash." A Team Australia player added her view that "It's really important for us all to take responsibility for our planet."

The Nippon Foundation aims to hold the next World Cup in two years.

Tools of the SPOGOMI competition. (©Sankei by Kazuya Kamogawa)


(Read the report in Japanese.)

Author: The Sankei Shimbun

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