trashtagkuwait leverages social media for environmental activism
Putting an environmental spin on viral social media trends is the best use of social media in a good way. The hashtag #Trashtag challenge invites people to post before and after pictures of areas cleared of waste. Plastic and litter are some of the biggest problems faced by the environment. #Trashtag encourages people in Kuwait to clean up, and volunteers have made beaches and parks trash-free while also raising awareness of the quantity of plastic litter produced.
Kuwait Times spoke with Carina Maceira, a 20-year-old American cofounder of Trashtag Kuwait, a non-profit organization dedicated to fighting the negative environmental impacts of marine litter and waste pollution in Kuwait. Some excerpts:
Kuwait Times: Tell us more about yourself.
Carina Maceira: I’ve been a volunteer and organizer at Trashtag Kuwait since it was initiated by Yousef Al-Shatti, cofounder of Trashtag Kuwait, in April 2019.
KT: What is Trashtag?
Maceira: Trashtag was initially a social media challenge targeted towards helping the environment. It was brought to Kuwait by Reddit user Yousef Al-Shatti, who organized the first cleanup in April at Sulaibikhat beach. Since our first cleanup, Trashtag has morphed into more than a challenge and into a dedicated group of volunteers who started a nonprofit grassroots organization focused on the rehabilitation of the environment, raising awareness and finding alternative ways to fight pollution and marine litter.
KT: How does the Trashtag challenge work?
Maceira: Since starting out, we’ve challenged our more than 100 volunteers and more than 1,000 followers to not only counteract plastic pollution by attending our weekly cleanups, but by also doing their part whenever they find themselves surrounded by trash outdoors, be it in parks, beaches, boardwalks, marinas, etc. So far, we’ve had a few people submit their photos, letting us know how much trash they’ve gathered.
As part of our campaign, we also educate on how to reduce plastic waste and avidly encourage our followers to share all the ways they reject plastic in their day-to-day lives, whether plastic bags at the supermarket, plastic straws in restaurants or plastic water bottles at gyms. People are stepping up and accepting that there are many ways to tackle the issue of plastic.
KT: How to encourage people to be part of this viral social media challenge?
Maceira: While our events are weekly and always open to the public, we try to focus as much as we can on awareness, so people can understand why the challenge is so important, as well as the plastic-free July challenge (a challenge dedicated to refusing the use of plastic for a whole month and finding alternatives). We have collaborated with other eco-friendly groups, community service organizations, art groups and musicians as well to help spread the message and reach different communities to relay the importance of tackling waste management and litter in Kuwait.
KT: What are the places you have cleaned so far?
Maceira: So far, Trashtag Kuwait has cleaned several beaches along the coast, including Sulaibikhat beach, Mangaf beach, Mahboula beach, Salmiya beach, Shuwaikh Free Zone beach, Sabah Hospital area beach, Khairan, Abu Hassaniya beach, Marina beach, Blajat beach and a few parks as well. We’ve had to hit some of these locations a few times to tackle all the accumulated waste. So far we’ve collected more than 400 bags of waste and recyclable material, several tyres, carpets and other debris.
KT: How many people have participated in the cleanup campaign?
Maceira: The group was founded towards the end of April, where we had around a dozen members for the first cleanup. Since then we’ve become a group of 125 members and more are joining each weekend after our events.
KT: How have people reacted to Trashtag?
Maceira: I’ve noticed that whenever people come across our work and are unfamiliar with the challenge, they say Trashtag rather hesitantly and linger over the word ‘trash’. I think they expect us to contradict them with a nicer and more prestigious label, but at the end of the day, we believe by staying as Trashtag, we are tackling the issue in Kuwait head on. It is a taboo, and many people are perplexed by the work we’re doing, but many people are also very engaged and dedicated to contributing to the mission.
We believe serious change must be effected on a national and governmental level to counteract the plastic choking Kuwait’s oceans and polluting our environment. While receiving support from many groups and individuals has been essential, we will only accomplish saving the environment from plastic with the cooperation and support of government officials who take the conversation seriously and lead Kuwait into a greener, cleaner and safer future.
By Faten Omar
Want to help out?
Join @trashtagkuwait’s clean up meet ups at various local parks and beaches. This Saturday, August 17 at 5:30pm in Salmiya park. Follow on instagram for more info.