01 May 2019

Rubbish, be gone!

How Kiribati youth have taken the #Trashtag Challenge to the next level

Have you heard? There’s a new challenge that’s got young people snapping selfies, and this one will have you smiling.

Since a post on Facebook went viral last week, the Trashtag Challenge has been motivating teens around the world to find an area in their community, clean it up, and post before-and-after photos on social media. To date, there have been more than 27,000 #trashtag posts on instagram.  

The importance of this challenge has not gone unnoticed. In many communities around the world, litter is such a serious issue that young people are ready to become uncomfortable to do the right thing for their community.

For a local youth group in Betio, Kiribati, the Trashtag Challenge is a chance to a share about a clean-up drive they coordinated in their community and, at the same time, inspire a more long-term impact. 

“Our community clean-up campaign started in early 2018 and again just recently,” explains Rosally Aata, team leader from ChildFund Kiribati. “What we found is that people really like their places to be clean, but, there isn’t any transportation to take their rubbish out.”

For context, Betio is a densely populated city on South Tarawa, the largest island of the South Pacific nation of Kiribati. In the area where ChildFund works, there are more than 3,000 people living, very compactly, in only 500 square metres. There’s only one main road in Betio, but most people live on the smaller streets that branch out. On these small streets, government-funded trucks do not come to collect rubbish. That’s why young people have taken up the task. 

“At first, it wasn’t easy to get people in the community interested,” says David Kakiakia the Program Coordinator from ChildFund Kiribati. “Because we know people like to dance in our community, we invited them to take part in a dance lesson and, while they were participating, we handed out rubber gloves and bin liners.”

The plan worked.

For six weeks, youth and community members living in this area of Betio took part in a daily rubbish clean-up campaign. Around 20 people took part each day and, collectively, spent more than 600 hours picking up trash in their community.

And, that’s not all. Following the campaign, community members, along with the local council, have committed to a monthly trash clean-up drive to ensure litter does not return. In addition, the council will now bring garbage trucks to more places in the community.

Young people in Betio hope that, over time, there won’t be a need for the Trashtag Challenge in their community.

We hope so too. 

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