What is #Trashtag?

This newly viral challenge is encouraging people to take a walk outside and pick up any litter that they come across. The Trashtag Challenge is being taken up by people across social media, and some of the before and after pictures are incredible – it’s amazing how simply picking up litter can transform a landscape.

#Trashtag has actually been around for a while, but earlier this month it gained wider recognition following a repost targeting bored, tired teenagers, encouraging them to get up and get outside. Since then, the challenge has gone viral, with tens of thousands of people around the world getting involved and doing their part to clean up their communities.

Not only is this social media trend encouraging people to clean up their communities, but it also raises awareness of the amount of litter that we are producing – particularly plastic waste.

Why do we need #Trashtag?

The reason we need movements like the Trashtag Challenge is simple – because we need to start picking up our litter for the sake of our local communities, local wildlife and ultimately, the environment as a whole. It is estimated that 62% of people in England drop litter, and over 30 million tonnes of litter is collected from England’s streets each year.

Not only is litter unsightly, but it has a major impact on our environment. Litter damages the ecosystem in which it is dumped, and is carried by the wind and weather to streams and rivers, where it ends up in the sea. Therefore, it is no surprise that an estimated 80% of the litter in the sea is from inland. In any ecosystem, litter can create a harmful environment. Toxins that are released from the litter not only have the potential to make animals ill, but to also kill the nearby plant life.

What next?

This social media movement is one of the best so far and I hope that the hype around it is not just temporary – which tends to be the case for most social media trends. However, in order to reduce the amount of litter that we produce, we need to go one step further than this campaign and reduce how much single-use plastic we use.

Every day the UK uses 38.5 million plastic bottles, but only half of these are recycled. In addition to this, an estimated 8 million tonnes of plastic from land enters the ocean every year. This threatens marine life and wider ecosystems, and needs to stop. We are already seeing steps towards this with food and drink establishments beginning to offer straws made of paper rather than plastic. Paper bottles do not currently exist, nor do I think they ever will, but there’s definitely no shortage of reusable water bottles out there. If everyone were to use one of these, then perhaps we’d be able to prevent the need for a clean-up in the first place and our marine life would be healthy and thriving.