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Usually when we hear about the latest “challenge” making its way through social media, we can’t help but roll our eyes. Remember when “planking” was a thing eight or nine years ago? Ugh. People eating spoonfuls of cinnamon? Give me a freaking break. (The Mannequin Challenge I thought was pretty cool.) But the latest social media fad to come across our feeds and timelines, the #TrashTag Challenge, isn’t eyeroll-worthy at all; it’s actually pretty damn amazing.
The #TrashTag Challenge is simple enough: You head somewhere that has trash to clean up — the woods out back of your house, a beach or park, even local streets and roadways — and you clean it up. (Naturally, you document the challenge with a before and after photo, because nothing happens in life if it’s not documented on your Insta.)
While the #TrashTag Challenge is just picking up speed recently, it’s apparently been around — meaning the hashtag has been used — for a several years. More than 32,000 photos (at the time of publication) include the hashtag on Instagram alone.
Time magazine says that a company called UCO promoted the idea for the #TrashTag Challenge all the way back in 2015 in an effort to encourage the protection of local wilderness areas. (According to UCO, which sells camping and other outdoors gear, the idea originated in its CEO after he inadvertently littered when a receipt flew out his car window while on a road trip. So he pledged to pick up 100 pieces of trash before he headed home.)
You may have seen this Instagram post, featuring a guy who participated in the #TrashTag Challenge, make its way onto your own feed:
“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. #TrashTag,” reads the post, liked nearly 60,000 times already.
The challenge is clearly taking off on social media, with tons of people sharing before-and-after photos of themselves picking up trash and ridding their local communities of litter. Just check out Reddit and Twitter.