Photo Credit: Flickr
Edited with Permission by Frontier
If you are active on the social media platform Reddit, there is a good chance you have stumbled upon before and after photos of places people have cleaned up. What started few weeks ago on r/trees sub-reddit has now spread onto the rest of the social media platforms with a trending hashtag ‘trashtag’, forming a global challenge encouraging people to pick up their trash.
Is not often when a challenge goes viral, it actually inspires to do something good. Lately, viral challenges, from ‘In my Feelings’ to the tide pod challenge, have more often than not raised concerns over safety and, to be honest, people’s sanity rather than encouraging them to do something helpful. Anyone remembers the good old days of the ice bucket challenge raising money and awareness for ALS?
#Trashtag sets internet challenges back on that track. The idea is simple. You choose an area filled with trash, it could be a beach or a patch of forest, and you clean it up. Take a photo of the trash-filled place, pick up the plastics, cigarette ends and other waste laying around, put them in trash bags and recycle. When the place is cleared out of waste, you post the before and after photos on social media with a #trashtag. Pretty straightforward, right?
Recently, the topic of climate change has been on everyone’s mind as the youth climate strikes have rapidly spread across the globe. So, it’s no wonder that the #trashtag challenge has been well-received by social media users. The increasing awareness of the impact plastic pollution has on the soil and habitats has certainly boosted the popularity of challenge.
People from all over the world, from Russia to India, have taken on this new challenge dominating the internet. Currently, there are almost 37,000 photos on Instagram with the #trashtag, and the amount of the posts only seems to be growing as the movement receives more media coverage.
Even with tens of thousands of #trashtag posts online, for many, #trashtag is a relatively new acquaintance. The hashtag has been around since 2015 but it wasn’t until last week when it blew up and made its way into the public knowledge. #Trashtag was created as a part of a campaign by UCO, an outdoors clothing company, to inspire people to pick up trash, but back in the days, it didn’t take off as well as it has done now.
According to UN, 300 million tonnes of plastic waste is produced every year, and at the current pace, there could be more plastic than fish in the oceans by 2050. Since the 1950s, plastic consumption has increased 200-fold, most of which has happened within the past few decades.
The problem is recycling hasn’t developed and increased at the same speed creating a massive waste disposal problem. 91% of plastic waste is never recycled and only 12% of it is incinerated. This means nearly 80% of all plastic waste either ends up in landfills or nature.
The world is slowly waking up the problem. China has banned plastic waste imports from foreign countries to ease their own waste disposal. Since 1992, China had imported 45% of plastic waste. EU has also approved a ban on single-plastics, such as straws and plastic cutlery, which is expected to come into effect in 2021.
Although governments are gradually taking action to ban plastics products, it’s campaigns and challenges like #trashtag that inspire individuals to do their part in the fight against extensive plastic pollution. In the era of social media, hashtags and influencers are becoming a common way to make a difference as social media platforms have a power to reach far more people than traditional media.
Even though social media fame can often be short-lived, challenges like #trashtag serve as an occasional reminder what people can, and should, do for the environment.