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'#trashtag' is the Oddly Wholesome Social Media Trend That Involves People Cleaning Up the Environment

By Petr Knava | Social Media | March 11, 2019 |

By Petr Knava | Social Media | March 11, 2019 |


Did you have trouble sleeping last night? I mean more so than usual. I know, me too. But don’t worry, there’s a pretty simple explanation.

It was that giant-ass blue moon hanging in the sky.

Jesus, you ever try to work a metaphor in so hard that you actually sprain a muscle?

[insert smooth segue here]

…because yes indeed! It’s one of those rare times when there is a positive hashtag trending! Such a nice, strange feeling, to feel some good vibes from a hashtag. I don’t know about you but I find that it’s a lot harder to feel a warm glow when it’s a ‘#’ followed by one of Trump’s demented slogans or apocalyptic threats. #covfefe was quite funny, I suppose, in a grim, dark, ‘dear god the brain controlling the finger hovering over the red button doesn’t even know which room it’s in; it probably thinks that button is the flusher on the golden toilet; we’re all horribly, stupendously boned’ way.

But now there is something positive trending, and it feels good.


This tweet pretty much sums it up:

Yep. It’s a social media challenge that involves cleaning up the environment. Which, I mean: Yay.

It’s likely that the hashtag originated as a response to this story from India from 2017 in which lawyer and environmentalist Afroz Shah, aided by a flurry of volunteers, performed a monumental clean up of a horrifically polluted beach:

#trashtag mumbai man cleans 5 million kgs of trash (timeframe 96 weeks) from r/pics

Climate change is the most depressing goddamn thing ever. A searing indictment of the worst of humanity’s foibles. As a species we arise from nothing by the grace of a quantum leap hiccup of cognitive evolution, and we…used that formidable power to build a globe-spanning system of extractive industrial capitalism that relied on exploited labour and that survived buoyed by the myth that said that the resources gifted to us by Mother Earth were infinite, and that she would stay the same no matter how much we extracted from her or how badly we polluted her beautiful, delicate ecosystems.

But of course she did change. As we always knew she would. And now our polluting industrial capitalist chickens have now come home to roost. It will take only a mass, systemic effort to restructure our economies and systems of energy production to avert the worst of the coming crises. In the grand scheme of things, individual action is often almost meaningless. Too often you’ll see a corporate Twitter account encouraging people to switch off lights when they’re not in the room, or a politician in the pocket of the fossil fuel industry preaching to the proles to turn off the tap while they brush their teeth, and the irony drips thicker than an Exxon oil tanker spill.

Despite the fact that focus absolutely must be on the larger scale, some positive individual action is still better than none. And it’s certainly nice to see the often asinine yet formidable power of social media being harnessed for some good for a change. The ice bucket challenge of 2014 was dismissed as yet another example of ‘slacktivism’—of which there are many—but it did, according to an ALS charity, actually help to identify a new gene associated with the disease. So while yes, a whole lot of people will just be doing something like the ice bucket challenge for the attention or to ride the bandwagon without actually donating any money to the cause, with something like #trashtag it’s challenge itself that is the work, not any potential donation. The tangible effort that makes the picture possible is in and of itself the totality of the trend.

Let’s just hope any kids doing this are educated on the various health and safety hazards that come with disposing of waste.

While on this topic, there is also a subreddit. Because there’s always a subreddit. It’s called ‘DeTrashed’, and it’s a good place.

Just discovered this subreddit! We detrashed a lake in Texas! 4,000 pounds of beer bottles and beer cans. With about 30 scuba divers and 4 boats. Did it in about 4 hours. from r/DeTrashed
Had a friend complain about straw bans saying that they’re not even a real litter/marine debris issue. So I did a quick 10 minute sweep of 300ft of shoreline to prove them wrong. from r/DeTrashed
Lake nearby. First time detrashing - now I feel you guys. I enjoyed every single moment. Will keep doing it until I detrash it all. from r/DeTrashed

Now, obviously, some of these will just be people reposting old photos of somebody else’s work, which is a shame, but that’s just the nature of the internet.

Even more deflating is the fact that all that trash being collected will likely end up being dumped into another landfill or just straight up into the ocean as is the current still too prevalent practice. That’s something that really does reveal the limits of individual action in the face of a systemically rotten industry. What really needs to happen if we are to stem the tide of poison destroying the world is a huge move away from plastics and towards sustainable, responsible waste management.

But I’m trying to stay positive today, dammit!

So good on you, #trashtag heroes. You’re doing good work.

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Petr is a staff contributor. You can follow him on Twitter.

Header Image Source: Twitter