How the #Trashtag challenge got people all over the world picking up litter

People all across the world have been responding to a call to pick up litter. (Screengrab from social media)
People all across the world have been responding to a call to pick up litter. (Screengrab from social media)

In early March, an American launched a new challenge on social media under the hashtags #Trashtag and #BasuraChallenge that quickly spread across the globe. But it wasn't just a silly stunt-- instead, people were invited to clean up rubbish and post the before and after pictures on social media.

"Here is a new #challenge for all you bored teens," reads the Facebook post published by Byron Román, a user in Arizona, in the southwestern United States. He shared two photos featuring a young man in front of a woody area strewn with rubbish, and later standing next to several trash bags and the now cleaned-up landscape. Román, who was unaware of the identity of the man when he posted the photos, challenged young people to do the same thing:

“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. Here are the people doing it #BasuraChallenge #trashtag Challenge, join the cause.”

The man in the photos turned out to be Drici Tani Younes, a young environmental activist in Algeria. Younes later called the challenge "100% Algerian" and shared new photos of his ambitious cleaning operation.

The two have indeed made the challenge go viral. Román's post has since been shared more than 331,000 times on Facebook and spread to other social media platforms. Thousands of people from across the globe responded, with posts pouring in from India, Chile, Bahrein, Paraguay and France. An Instagram account called "trashtagchallenge" was also created to share photos of the various initiatives.

Up to 5 trillion plastic bags are used each year across the world and, like most plastic products, only a tiny fraction is recycled, the United Nations reported in May 2018. That number will only climb higher, with the World Wildlife Fund estimating that plastic production is likely to increase by 40% between now and 2030.

These dire figures have inspired people all over the world to start making change, even at the smallest level.

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This story was written by Maëva Poulet.