By Oliver Freeman
Humans, unfortunately like to leave their mark wherever they go. And this has had a severely negative impact on the environment in which we live in.
Waste and pollution is at an all-time high and more often than not, our rubbish is dumped in the ocean or casually discarded on land. We need to find an eco-friendly and sustainable solution to all this trash. After all, it is our job to look after the planet while we still can, before our actions or inaction ends up causing our own demise.
According to Ocean Crusaders, 13,000 to15,000 pieces of plastic are dumped into the ocean every day. Each year, we drop 6.4 million tonnes into the ocean. To put it into perspective, that’s 3,200 kilometres of lorries, each brimming with rubbish. Oftentimes, this waste washes up on beaches across the world and is left there by the majority, who duck the responsibility to simply do their part to help the planet. I mean seriously people, how hard is it to bend down and pick up the rubbish?
One organisation that refuses to duck the responsibility, however, is Trash Hero World. They were recipient of the prestigious “Thailand Green Excellence Award” in both 2015 and 2016. This team of modern-day superheroes are fighting back against the mass waste-pollution in the world. They aren’t hiding behind masks and cloaks, and they certainly aren’t accepting the mainstream narrative that our level of wastage is inevitable and unchangeable. Instead, Trash Hero is here to save the planet from the consequences of our long-standing environmental neglect, one piece of garbage at a time.
You may have heard about it, or perhaps you haven’t. One thing is for sure, though, Trash Hero is beginning to span the globe and, without a doubt, will be in a town near you very soon.
Where are They Now?
Initially started in Thailand in 2013, Trash Hero began as a movement of like-minded people keen to change the local narrative on rubbish. The organisation started off by arranging weekly beach clean-ups, educating volunteers and sensitising them to the irreversible damage that waste-plastic, in particular–causes the environment and eventually themselves.
Fast forward six-years and the organisation has expanded outside of Thailand, to Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Laos, Singapore, Czech Republic, the United States, Romania, Serbia, Zimbabwe, and Switzerland. During this expansion and by the end of 2018, Trash Hero had amassed more than 177,000 volunteers, who have contributed towards 5,269 cleanups worldwide.
To date, this elite group of earth guardians has successfully removed 886,685 kilograms of rubbish from beaches and cities. In addition, they currently provide awareness workshops throughout Southeast Asia to educate communities about the importance of thwarting waste pollution and creating responsible waste management.
Where Does the Rubbish Go?
Trash Hero World, alongside their volunteers, sort the collected waste and pass on any of the recyclable materials. Non-recyclable and non-compostable waste are sent to the company, Eco Bricks, while discarded flip-flops and footwear (a huge problem on their own) are sent to Tlejourn.
Eco Bricks is a company that manufactures eco-friendly, reusable building blocks. They do so by packing clean and dry used plastic into a plastic bottle to set a density. This creates a sturdy-enough block which can be used for furniture production, and landscaping and construction projects.
Trash Hero inspired the founding of Tlejourn, in 2015, a company that creates new shoes and flip-flops from any discarded footwear that the volunteers find on the beach. Tlejourn has since become an independent social enterprise which markets itself on social media platforms like Facebook.
Educating the Masses
At Trash Hero, the education of both adults and children is important. To make a difference, they need to change the narrative and the perceptions -or lack thereof – that people have of waste and the environment. Currently, they bring attention to the cause, and to their brand, through workshops in schools, word-of-mouth, and by circulating their documentaries and gaining mainstream media attention with the assistance of social media campaigning.
In an attempt to highlight the importance of their work, Trash Hero T-shirts, bright yellow in colour, are printed in both English and the respective local languages, and sold – and often donated – to the communities and schools that the organisation has positively impacted and educated.
Making the Change
The Bottles & Bags program, created by Trash Hero, is a head-on attempt to reduce the consumption of single-use disposable plastic. Offered as an eco-friendly alternative, Trash Hero stainless steel bottles have been produced and widely circulated among friends of the environment and volunteers of the cause.
Trash Hero has set up a network of 450 businesses across Southeast Asia, with the intention of expanding its network to 500 in 30 locations worldwide, within the next three years. Once bottles have been produced, they are sold to this network, at cost price; businesses are then able to sell the bottles to customers for a small profit. In return for this profit, the businesses within the network are obliged to refill any person’s Trash Hero bottle with water, whenever it is requested.
To date, 72,500 bottles have been sold. Based on Trash Hero’s estimation, this potentially prevents the waste equivalent of almost 26.5 millions plastic bottles, assuming a purchase of one bottle of water per day. This is a fantastic achievement and an excellent step in the right direction for a greener, more eco-friendly planet.
As the organisation says, “Anyone can be a Trash Hero, it’s easy! A Trash Hero wastes as little as possible, reuses as much as possible, and works to preserve and improve the spaces they are in, wherever they may be.”
Right now, we are heading towards an irreversible level of man-made pollution. But, we do still have time to halt the environmental damage that we cause. So, if you are travelling, or planning to travel soon, why not get involved with the Trash Hero World group and make a difference to the communities that you visit? After all, we all want nature’s beauty to be there for our future generations to enjoy, so let’s make the difference now.