If the sight of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch causes concern and frustration within you, well, you have no one to blame but yourself.
“Tiny pieces of degraded plastic, synthetic fibers and plastic beads, collectively called microplastics, have turned up in every corner of the planet—from Florida beach sands to Arctic sea ice, from farm fields to urban air.”
But how exactly does plastic get in the ocean?
Holidaymakers littering beaches, food packaging and cigarette butts that get blown away into the oceans and all the personal care and cosmetic products that go down the drain, they all find their way into the oceans and our environment around us.
What’s the worst that could happen?
Scientists finding microplastic in the fish that we eat is proof that we are just killing ourselves by not cleaning up after ourselves. But all it takes is very little initiative on our part to start changing this.
Today, we’re in conversation with Chris, a frequent contributor to the subreddit r/DeTrashed, about the trash epidemic and how a small group of volunteers are making a huge impact in not only cleaning up their surroundings, but also in bringing awareness to the general public.
What does detrashing mean?
Detrashing means to clean up the environment around you. This could be as simple as picking up a water bottle on the ground on your walk to work or as big as a multiple person, multiple day beach clean. It just involves taking a little more effort to ensure the world stays a little cleaner, the amount of effort can vary per person and it’s really as much as someone wants to do. I’ve seen a lot of people start small and get really into it, as it is a fun addictive activity.
How did this movement begin? How do you organise groups?
So it started off because my dad use to always pick up trash when he would walk, then one day in 8th grade I started biking a lot, so I tried to pick up trash while doing so. Several years later I tried posting this on a few environmental subreddits but the communities were dead. So I decided to make my own sub with a focus on being involved and encouraging others. Detrashing can be both a solo or a group activity, I highly encourage everyone to try to get a friend involved as it is a lot of fun.
There is a significant population that litters and sees no harm in doing so. How do you propose to educate this population?
It’s hard to educate others in this area as many people just don’t care. So I try to lead by example and encourage others to do the same. If people see someone on the side of the road picking up trash they will be less likely to litter as they know someone will be forced to clean it up. Also, litter encourages more litter. People are more likely to litter in an area that already has litter, so removing what is already there can help prevent more from accumulating. Besides that I just try to encourage others to be more environmentally minded as positive encouragement goes a long way.
What are the damages caused by trashing?
The damages cause by trash are countless. The plastics poison animals such as whales, the metals can lead to heavy metal accumulation in an environment, fertilizer run-off can cause harmful algae blooms. All the recyclables that are thrown out increase the demand for more resources which has a cascading effect. There are also damages that have nothing to do with the environment such as property value and community pride. People don’t want to live in a littered area, so it can negativity affect property value and make people care less about their community. There are countless negative effects of litter.
Can you think of any particularly disturbing instance of littering that you came across?
Not particularly, I do it on relatively safe areas but I’m sure others from the sub have some stories.
As children we are all taught that littering is bad. Why, then, as adults do we ignore this?
Good question. I think the main thing is many people stop caring. They get so self involved that they don’t care about it anymore. Then when they see an area that already has some litter they care even less and it builds. I just want more people to care about our planet. Just a little bit more. Also, a lot of trash happens by accident. People will put their recycling out and it will occasionally fall over and make a mess, so not all litter is on purpose. But I think a big problem is people don’t appreciate our natural areas as much as they used to. If more people would just go on a nice walk through the woods they would quickly learn that it’s a beautiful area that needs to be and should be protected.
Do you see the detrashing movement becoming an organised global one? Does it have to be?
Yes and no. We already have lots of people around the world and occasionally we have global efforts such as Sept 15th (international coastal clean up day), but detrashing itself is meant to be a small activity. Something one can work into their daily routine without making them do much more than holding on to their trash till they find a garbage can. I’m very, very glad some people have made a huge hobby out of it but I would be very happy if more people would just pick up a wrapper on the ground instead of walking past it. That’s all it takes. If a quarter of the planet did just that, the world would be a completely different place.
Lotus Trolley Bag is trying to solve the problem of single use plastics.
In what way are manufacturers contributing to the problem? What should they do to help the cause?
This is something I always see that bothers me. Yes, manufacturers make the largest amount of waste and pollution, no doubt about it. But it’s not like they are doing that for the fun of it! They are supplying a demand that we as consumers are producing! One can’t blame the manufacturers and then go out and buy a 12 pack of coke cans! Manufacturers make the pollution to supply the demand we create. If we want to help we need to reduce our wants. I’m not saying everyone needs to give up every little treat they like, but reducing ones waste is a good place to start. Additionally, send mail/email to your favorite manufacturers/shopping centers telling them that you value green interests. One letter won’t change what they do but there is a trend of people wanting to be more environmentally friendly and companies will take notice. By sending mail you push them towards making that decision. Lastly, one can do their research, there are some green companies out there and buying their products over their competitors will make a capitalistic incentive to become more environmentally friendly
So in total reduce your waste even if it’s only a bit, when you can reduce your waste contact people and encourage them to do so, then do some research and try to become a more responsible shopper.