Britain came out on top when 21 teams from around the world gathered in Tokyo this week to collect litter in the inaugural SpoGomi World Cup, an initiative aimed at raising awareness of environmental issues.
The teams of three from countries as far afield as Australia and Brazil scoured the streets of Shibuya and Omotesando for 90 minutes over two sessions looking for waste and then sorting what they had found into appropriate categories.
Britain’s team beat the host Japanese trio into second place by earning 9,046.1 points for collecting 57.27 kilograms (126.26 lbs) of rubbish.
“A lot of the other teams maybe were more ecological, and less sport, and we’re probably the opposite, but we’ve taken so much away about how much we need to clean up our oceans and reduce litter,” team captain Sarah Parry said after collecting the trophy.
Japan’s famously high standards of hygiene and cleanliness made finding rubbish challenging for some of the competitors.
“Sometimes it was really hard because there wasn’t really that much trash,” said Team USA member Beatrice Hernandez.
“But that’s when we 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”. Invented in 2008 to encourage people to pick up litter in public places, it has grown in popularity to the extent that 230 contests have been held in Japan this year.