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  • Charlie Sykes


Already, plastic waste is contaminating our beaches, our seas, our parks and our lives. Single-use plastics are slowly but surely having vast negative effects on the earth and its inhabitants; humans and every other living creature alike.

One saddening example of the impact that rubbish is having arose just a few days ago when a whale in the Philippines was found washed up on a beach dead, but not of natural causes. According to marine biologists at the D’Bone Collector Museum, the juvenile died of gastric shock after ingesting a horrifying 40 kilograms of plastic bags.

Change is beginning to happen though, and social media is the cause. Viral challenges come and go and change as fast as the weather, but rarely do they do good, or create positive change.

To name a few challenges from the past, we have the:

  • Cinnamon challenge: putting a spoon of dry cinema into your mouth

  • What the fluff challenge: fooling pets with games of peek-a-boo

  • Snoot challenge: getting your dog to place their snouts inside a shape made by the owner’s hand (usually a circle or a love heart etc.)

These are just a few and more appear every day, but in the last week a challenge has appeared that is all about cleaning up your local environment; the #trashtag challenge.

The World Bank’s 2016 report into solid waste management found that the world’s cities had generated 2.01 billion tons of solid waste in 2016, with this amount expected to rise by a whopping 70% by the year 2050. Every bit of action, however small or large is needed and needed now, and the #trashtag challenge is a good example of what can be achieved in only a small amount of time.

The #trashtag challenge involves people finding a place covered in rubbish and taking a ‘before’ image. To complete the challenge, the person then needs to clean the area, then take an ‘after’ image showing the improvement.

It is a great challenge and shows the astounding effect that social media can have on the environment. Within just a few days, thousands of posts were made after people flocked to clean beaches, parks and rivers as groups or by themselves.

However, we cannot mistake hashtag activism with real, long term action. Yes, the positive effects from just a few days have been extraordinary, but we need real change. We need change that is not just picking up the rubbish, but change that means that it is more circular.

Social media is now one of the strongest tools for change, especially in the younger generation. So, let’s unite to keep where we live clean, and to work at doing our part to reduce our waste.

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