People across Twitter, Instagram, Reddit, and Facebook have been posing with a bunch of garbage bags, and no, this isn’t a case of Mugatu’s fashion line Derelicte at last filtering down onto the high street, it’s the #Trashtag Challenge.
This new challenge, aimed at “bored teens”, but being picked up by people of all ages, inspires people to get outside, pick a place covered in litter, and do their bit to help clean up the planet. People around the world have been sharing before and after photos of their efforts. It’s all incredibly wholesome, and we’re here for it.
The hashtag is not actually new; it began circulating back in 2015, started by outdoor company UCO Gear as part of a campaign to protect the wilderness.
It got resurrected last week by Facebook-user Byron Roman, who posted a “before” pic of himself sitting amongst a thick layer of liberally scattered, mainly plastic trash followed by an “after” pic of the cleanup effort, resulting in nine sacks of rubbish.
“Here is a new #challenge for all you bored teens,” he wrote. “Take a photo of an area that needs some cleaning or maintenance, then take a photo after you have done something about it, and post it.”
And they did in the thousands.
Whether it’s beaches, forests, fields or the side of the road, in Nepal, Russia, the US, or Indonesia, volunteers in groups or on their own have been motivated to tackle trash in a way not seen before.
Instead of environmentalists concerned that "doing it for the ‘gram" may result in the destruction of our natural habitats thanks to the quest for the perfect photo, it’s a rare case of a social media tag actually translating into action and change on the ground (even if some people are doing it to secure that perfect "outdoorsy" pic).
It’s not the first social media challenge to actually do some good in the world. The Ice Bucket Challenge back in 2014 raised an incredible amount of awareness and money for ALS, also known as motor neurone disease, even resulting in the direct funding of research.
Of course, that came with its own criticism. For every person that took part was somebody else gleefully sharing a wet T-shirt competition video of themselves with no info on the disease, where to get support, or how to donate.
However, if you've ever been on the fence about getting involved in a viral challenge, this one is a good place to start. We know plastic pollution is everywhere, and though tackling it properly involves action on a much larger scale – big corporations becoming more environmentally friendly, governments changing policy, and countries around the world uniting with a common goal – the future is in the hands of the social media generation, so where better to start?