What can I do to help make the planet a little better?
That’s what dozens of social media users asked themselves this weekend while tidying up littered public spaces across the globe. Many posts were accompanied by a “before” and “after” photo, along with mountains of trash-filled garbage bags, and the distinctive “trashtag”.
The hashtag is now trending across platforms such as Twitter, Reddit, and Instagram, amassing hundreds of photos and thousands of bags brimming with litter. The trend has even led to mass cleanup challenges, with some gathering up to 500 volunteers and 8000 lbs. of trash in a day.
The movement began in September of 2015, when ecological activist Steven Reinhold created the tag while posting photos of the trash he collected on a hike in Yosemite Valley. In his caption, he urged outdoors-people everywhere to tidy up their national parks and wildlife spaces. The hashtag had been slowly rising in popularity until it exploded on March 5th, 2019 after a Facebook user posted a photo of an unknown man challenging “bored teens” to clean up their local communities. The post has now been shared over 320,000 times on Facebook, and has spread quickly to other social media platforms.
The trend addresses a major issue that current and future generations need to face: plastic pollution. In 2015 alone, 381 million tonnes of plastic were produced, the approximate mass of two thirds of the world’s population. This leads to an accumulated value of 7.82 billion tonnes since the fossil fuel-based compound’s inception in the 1900s. Plastic takes hundreds to thousands of years to degrade in the wild, and has negative impacts on countless terrestrial and marine organisms, including humans. Nonetheless, scientific research and grassroots movements are popping up across the globe to wave the reduce, reuse and recycle flag.
The “trashtag” trend is a remarkable example of the influence of social media in bringing people together. The Internet has a very unique power in doing so. Ranging from such trends as the mannequin challenge, to a more planet-conscious one, it shows that anything is possible if everyone works together. Indeed, it is an empowering feeling to see citizens of the globe taking positive action to elicit change. Every action counts—so start with a small one in your community. You never know if it will be the one to flower into a global call to action.
Are you up for this challenge?