As It Happens

An Arizona man challenged 'bored teens' to pick up trash — and it went viral

The Trash Tag Challenge has people from all over the world cleaning up beaches, fields and other natural areas.

The Trash Tag Challenge has people all over the world snapping pics of their clean-up

The original photo that Byron Román posted to Facebook when he issued the Trash Tag Challenge. (Byron Román/Facebook)
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Last week, Arizona's Byron Román posted before-and-after photos of a guy sitting in the middle of a wooded area.

The first picture shows the ground strewn with garbage. In the second picture, the ground is clean, all that garbage neatly collected into nine trash bags. 

The post included a challenge to "all you bored teens out there" to follow his lead and collect trash at a nearby area requiring a bit of clean-up. 

Since then, the so-called Trash Tag Challenge has gone viral. 

"I just posted a photo for my friends to see, which is something I do every day just some inspirational, motivational words of wisdom I guess," he told As It Happens host Carol Off. 

The Phoenix man's original post has been shared more than 300,000 times, and groups from all over the world have added their own before-and-after shots of their clean-up attempts.

"I came up with the 'bored teens' because lately all you see online is all these challenges of people jumping out of cars ... or the Tide Pod challenge, eating soap," he said.

"But if they're bored and doing something silly and dangerous, then they should do something positive for the Earth."

At first, it was just a few likes and shares from Román'sfriends.

"As the day went along it just kept snowballing," he said. "I think people saw it and liked the message."

But Román wants to be clear that he didn't come up with the challenge — and it's not him in the original photo that he shared. 

The initiative was originally started by an environmental lighting company called UCO when their employee Steven Reinhold vowed to pick up 100 pieces of trash while out on a road trip. 

Often when something like this goes viral, people will just share the original images without actually participating or contributing themselves.

But the #TrashTag (or #Basura, in Spanish) Challenge seems to have inspired action.

"Some of the participants are schoolteachers and they showed the picture to their students and encouraged them to go out and keep areas clean," Román said. 

"It was very shocking and overwhelming for me to think, wow, people are doing what I suggested. And not just teens — it was all ages."

Given the typical life cycle of a viral meme, it's likely that the #TrashTag challenge will lose momentum at some point.

But Román thinks that the good generated by the meme so far will continue.

"At least the goal was met where an area was clean. I think more people are likely to keep an area clean," he said.

"So hopefully by cleaning up and keeping an area clean people will have pride and ownership of the planet and do more things about it and not get it dirty again."

Written by Alison Broverman. Produced by Allie Jaynes. 

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