Plastic is a double-edged sword. On one hand, it makes our lives easier in many regards, on the other hand, its existence is one of the main causes of our world’s pollution. Although, to be fair it’s not so much its existence per se, but rather its expendable nature. In short, we use it way too much and get rid off it way too quickly. This is nowhere more apparent than in countries such as Thailand, Indonesia, or India, where the public’s consciousness does not have a lot – if any – regard for waste management. Buy a small bottle of water in a 7-Eleven and you get a plastic bag and a plastic straw which is wrapped up in plastic with it. Even bananas sometimes come in a plastic wrapping! It’s insane. That’s where Trash Hero comes in.
This disregard results in, for example, beaches awash with staggering amounts of trash, and with marine animals ingesting, albeit being incapable of digesting, small plastic items. Now, before this post becomes too negative and depressing, there is a community of dedicated people who decided to pick up the fight by picking up the trash. What started as a spontaneous cleaning action on Koh Lipe grew – and is still growing – into the organization called Trash Hero that only recently gained the support of Thailand’s prime minister.
THE HISTORY OF TRASH HERO
“At first everyone was talking about when we should start it — in one week, two weeks, three weeks…and I said no. We’re going to start the day after tomorrow.” Trash Hero co-founder Roman Peter couldn’t wait to get started in August 2013 as he revealed in an interview with the Matador Network. He saw how much the island of Lipe has changed for the worse since his last visit. The beaches were filled with trash and instead of simply letting Nature do its course – read: doing nothing – Roman took action. With the support of a handful of locals and tourists, he rented a boat, bought trash bags and cleaned up. As simple as that.
17 people joined the first clean-up on Koh Adang, 27 the next, and from here on out the Trash Hero initiative gained more and more traction.
Jump forward five years and according to recent numbers, Trash Hero has inspired more than 104,000 volunteers to join their cause. Together they got rid of 600 metric tons of trash in 11 countries worldwide. These countries are mostly located in South East Asia like Thailand, Indonesia, Myanmar, and Malaysia, but Praha in the Czech Republic and New York in the United States, for example, answered the call as well.
THE MISSION & GOALS OF TRASH HERO
Their mission is straightforward yet far-reaching. It’s not only about picking up trash, although that is the first step, it’s also about making sure that it stays that way. And for that, Trash Hero has established four pillars on which their mission and, ultimately, their success rests.
Action and Awareness
Regardless of where they are, the Trash Heroes clean up the trash from a small cigarette butt to big Styrofoam boxes. And by doing so, they set a positive example for other people to follow them. This is the awareness part. As they correctly state on their website: “Actions speak louder than words.”
Raising awareness is one thing to convince people to join your cause, but education plays another essential part. This is particularly important when it comes to children. Here the organization started a program call Trash Hero Kids Program. During this program, kids in schools and local communities receive the necessary educational material, like their self-published kids book for example, and a Trash Hero t-shirt. Of course, they are more than welcome to join the regular clean-ups as well.
For everyone else, there is an entire section dedicated to documentaries and other educational videos.
The regular clean-ups and the kid’s program are only two examples of how the Trash Heroes plan to keep our planet waste-free. In general, all their projects aim to bring communities together and to remove waste as well as improve their waste management.
If you were wondering what actually happens with the trash once it’s accumulated, then you’d be surprised by their usefulness. The Trash Heroes work with entrepreneurs and companies worldwide to reuse the mounds of garbage and create new products. We are talking about reusable shopping bags, shoes and flip-flops, polystyrene bean bags, stand-up paddleboards, eco-bricks, and even art.
They also produce their own stainless steel water bottles, which they sell through local businesses at a low price. The participants agree to refill those water bottles with drinking water for free and, thus, in turn, prevents the purchase of a plastic water bottle.
This is where it starts and this is how it keeps going and growing. Many travelers came back from their Thailand visit with newfound inspiration and continued to fight the everyday battle against excessive garbage. Some even established a new Trash Hero branch in their home country.
And if you are inspired as well by now, you, too, can help. In case there is a location near you, like Ao Nang or Phuket, all you have to do is show up and help out. You don’t have to pay a fee or bring anything besides two strong hands and your gorgeous smile. Everything else is provided.
THE HEROES WE NEED & THE PLANET DESERVES
The numbers speak for themselves to some extent. Many of the devoted Trash Heroes use their own voice to spread the word through TedX Talks, Expos, movements, and countless other events. If there is a way to reach out to and inspire people, you can be certain that the Heroes are there. And for their tireless work, we believe, they deserve of our support, admiration, and respect.
Have you heard of Trash Hero before and maybe even joined one of their clean-ups? What do you do in your own home and/or local community to help the environment? Let us know in the comments below!
All photos belong to Trash Hero.