Social media trends and challenges do not necessarily have the best track record, with too many having the potential to cause harm. However, the most recent challenge to grace our screens does the opposite and is actually being used for social good.
What is #Trashtag?
This newly viral challenge is encouraging people to merely 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 it gained a lot of recognition earlier this month following one repost which targeted bored, tired teenagers to encourage 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 with regards to 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. 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 can also be carried by the wind and weather to other streams and rivers, which eventually lead into the sea. It is therefore 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 form the little not only has the potential to make animals ill but to also kill the nearby plant life.
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, and 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 so 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 at 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.