How often do you walk the extra few steps to find a garbage bin? Though Denmark might be one of the happiest countries in the world, it may not be the cleanest. Have you ever seen a park the morning after the concert in King’s Garden? What about the tiny cigarette filters on the ground close to the entrance of your favorite coffee shop?
Tuyen Phan decided to change the game by bringing attention to littering behaviour in Odense and calling people to Flash Your Trash!
What inspired you to start Flash your Trash initiative?
Within the last year my interests on the environment issues grew a lot. I started following a girl from Switzerland also known as @wepickupplastic on Instagram and I really liked the idea of cleaning up the environment around you. I wondered what would happen if Danes would start doing the same... I started following more social media profiles, which became my inspiration. It showed me that there are so many more people caring about the environment and that there are many different approaches in taking action.
Would you call yourself environmental activist?
A couple of years ago I imagined environmental activist as someone who is a member of Greenpeace, travels overseas trying to stop big corporations and their actions or stays hugging a tree so it would not be cut down. I’ve found my own individual way to be an activist: I try to pick up trash whenever I can, trying to get other people, my friends and family to do the same. Flash Your Trash is a way for me to do something about the world I am living in. We only have one planet, so we should take care of it
How does the “flashing your trash” process look like?
I just pick up trash when I go to shop for a dinner or walk to the city center. Whenever I remember I take a small bag and gloves with me. I also try to involve my friends and family, sometimes by simply asking them to pick up one or another piece of trash. I can feel a little bit of resistance, as some people think it is embarrassing to pick up trash. However, I believe the more people will see other people picking up trash, the more probable they will stop to pick up a piece themselves.
I am also organising Trash Walks, where a group of people meet and walk through the city while collecting trash on their way. During the first Trash Walk we were 14 people and during an hour we managed to walk only 500 meters. There was so much trash everywhere. I would really like to involve more people and various interest groups and organisations to join Trash Walks in the future.
What do you think are the reasons that people litter?
I think it is because of unawareness. Many people do not know how long it takes for our trash to break down in the nature. For a plastic bottle it’s at least 400 years, for cigarette filters - up to 4 years. We also buy a lot of things we do not need and it creates throwing out culture.
In your opinion, what is the best way to make people aware about the litter issue?
I think it is a combination of education from an early age at child care institutions, schools as well as at home. It is important that parents teach their children about recycling and taking care of the trash.
What is the most common type of trash you pick up in Odense?
Definitely cigarette butts. You can just step outside and pick up a hundred maybe. Soda and beer cans are also all over the place, together with junk food packages.
The weirdest thing you have picked up until now is...
It was one of the Trash Walk participants, who found a piece of a bone, which looked like a jaw of a dog or similar animal, with all the teeth intact. My colleague found a used tampon once, and I found three tweezers glued together.
What is your advice for people willing to become a part of picking up trash?
Just put on some gloves! Having some mini trash grabber in a pocket would be an amazing invention though. I really hope that people will stop thinking that it is embarrassing to pick up trash and more and more people will get engaged in cleaning up the environment.