#Trashtag: The online challenge cleaning places up

Garbage and pollution on a Tropical beachImage copyright Getty Images
Image caption The challenge is quite simple: pick a place, clean it up and post pictures on social media

It’s not often that a viral hashtag on social media goes, well, beyond social media.

But an online challenge encouraging users to clean up places has seen tens of thousands of people doing just that.

In the Trashtag Challenge, users pick a place filled with litter, clean it up, and post before and after pictures.

Volunteers have made beaches, parks and roads trash-free while also raising awareness of the quantity of plastic litter we produce.

This group in Novosibirsk, Russia, said they had collected 223 bags of litter, 75% of which would be sent for recycling.

The challenge was reportedly created in 2015 by outdoor company UCO Gear as part of a campaign to protect wilderness areas.

But a Facebook post last week directed at “tired teens” has apparently given it new life and made the hashtag viral.

On Instagram alone, there were more than 25,000 posts with the hashtag #trashtag – variations include #trashtagchallenge and #trashchallenge.

In Spanish, it has been translated to #BasuraChallenge.

But where does it go from here?

“Getting plastic out of the environment is important,” Mark Butler, policy director of the Canadian environmental charity Ecology Action Centre (EAC) told Halifax’s Star newspaper.

“We need to do more than go behind the people that are littering and clean it up. We need to turn off the plastic tap,” he said, adding that he hoped the campaign would lead to fundamental changes over single-use plastics, for example.

“There’s the waste hierarchy, which is to refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle. If we don’t do that stuff, then all we’ll be doing is cleaning up the litter with no end in sight.”

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