Anyone can be a hero
The Story of Trash Hero
by Branden Hallick
My name is Branden Hallick and I would like to share with you how I became a Trash Hero and hopefully I can inspire you to become a hero too.
It all started back in 2013, working as a Dive Instructor in Thailand on a very tiny island called Koh Lipe. A Tsunami had hit 9 years prior back in 2004. Taking tours and guiding guests as a dive instructor, it was hard not to notice the effects of human consumption and poor waste management. We were collecting trash from Borneo, Indonesia and even Philippines. Koh Lipe has two major islands surrounding it, Koh Adang and Koh Rawie. Both were in dire need of help, so much so that the trash had been buried meters down in the never before stepped on’ white flour-like sand, hidden there for thousands of years to come.
These islands, uninhabited by humans, were not going to clean themselves. With such an abundance of marine life, resident macaque monkeys and natural birds all trying to survive and not being able to distinguish between a plastic PET bottle, a banana peel or an apple and a tennis ball, something had to be done. And it had to be done NOW!
How do we clean this amazing paradise for free?
A plan was formed by us like-minded individuals eager to do something about our local trash situation. Breaking off into teams, we all handled a specific part of the task at hand. And so Trash Hero was born.
With a simple idea, we called for the support of local hotels, restaurants and scuba dive shops and challenged ourselves to go out every week without fail to clean a beach on an island within close proximity of Koh Lipe. See soon realised that it was simply not enough. We marketed the event with a short movie and played it in local bars to encourage tourists to join us. Who wouldn’t want a day out to visit another island, get free fruit and water, be part a movement and make a change? More hands make more impact! We chose a specific meeting point to not confuse anyone that wanted to join and set a time never to change. We would depart at 10am every Monday religiously whether there was one person or a hundred people. Within months we had gone from a five person team to sixty and even up to a hundred during the high seasons. As we gained traction, more businesses opted in to help. They would get social media attention and in return all we asked for was some fruit and what ever else they could spare.
Where we are today, 2020
In just two years Trash Hero grew so fast that we spread it across the other islands in Thailand. We adopted a leader to start their own Trash Hero chapter and set very simple rules to follow:
Host a Clean Up
1. Choose a day of the week that will yield the most volunteers
2. Use local sponsorship and don’t accept any cash or money
3. Wear yellow
4. Document your collections, volunteers and cleanups
5. Group Photo at the end
6. Post to social media and include all those that sponsored
In 2015 and 2016, Trash Hero Thailand was awarded the prestigious “Thailand Green Excellence Award”, which is intended to recognize and celebrate organizations who have made an outstanding contribution to growing Thailand as a sustainable destination.
By the end of 2019, 314,421 volunteers had participated in 9,447 cleanups, removing over 1,542,107kgs of trash. Today the Trash Hero organization consists of 163 chapters worldwide.
Reuseable Bottle Program
Another other project to help make a difference on islands was the implementation of Reusable Stainless Steel Water Bottles. We encouraged businesses to buy Trash Hero Water Bottles at our cost price (we simply were the middle men) then to encourage them to re-sell them for a set price across all businesses with a small mark up so as to cover the cost of the complementary water refills anywhere on the islands.
So far Trash Hero worldwide bottle program has sold 96,479 reusable bottles which means we have saved 35,214,835 plastic bottles from being purchased.
We clean, we learn, we change
Trash Hero teams continue to work with kids from schools to stop the trash problem at ground level. With various chapters taking the initiative to create upcycle products from collected trash, kids are seeing the benefits that trash can bring to their everyday lives. Some examples include using beach debris flip flops and pairing them up to fix them again, or polystyrene foam into bean bags or even fusing plastic packets together to make bags and carry pouches.
Perhaps the most encouraging aspect is the desire of government and local royalty to engage. Here in Indonesia alone we have conducted over 1200 cleanups involving 60,000 heroes including 12,000 kids, who collected a total of 150,000 kilos of trash in 2018. Trash Hero wishes to inspire each and every person to take a zero waste approach to their lives. It’s easier than you think and can be done with little effort. Anyone can be a hero. Become a hero today and make a difference.
To start making a difference visit www.trashhero.org