Britain came out on top when 21 teams from all across the world happened to come together in Tokyo this week to collect litter in the inaugural SpoGomi World Cup, an initiative aimed at raising awareness of environmental problems. The teams of three from nations as far afield as Australia and Brazil scoured the streets of Shibuya and Omotesando for 90 minutes over two sessions searching for waste and then sorting what they had discovered into accurate categories. Britain’s team, The North Will Rise Again, beat Japan by earning 9,048.1 points for collecting 83.7kg of rubbish.
“Many other teams maybe were more ecological, and less sport, and we’re probably the opposite,” team captain Sarah Parry said after collecting the trophy on Nov 22. “But we’ve taken so much away about how much we require to clean up our oceans and cut down litter. It’s been an extremely good experience.” But Japan’s very renowned high standards of hygiene and cleanliness made locating rubbish on the streets challenging for some of the competitors. “Sometimes it was really tough because there wasn’t really that much trash,” said Team USA member Beatrice Hernandez. “But that’s also when we just have to look a little bit deeper, like in the bushes, or just really focus on the cigarette butts on the floor.”
The name SpoGomi comes from the conflation of an abbreviation of “sport” with the Japanese word for trash, “gomi”. Several years back, SpoGomi founder Kenichi Mamitsuka started to pick up litter on his morning runs and began to recognize so strongly that setting goals could turn it into an enjoyable activity. He organised his first competition in 2008, and said that looking at the event’s maiden world championship was “like a dream”, and he positively believes it can grow to an even bigger scale. The step has become more popular to the extent that some 230 contests have been held in Japan in 2023. Organisers the Nippon Foundation said the World Cup had been held to increase awareness of environmental problems, in specific plastic pollution in the oceans.