Milky Change goes Zurich... Saubere Leistung!
This was the slogan on the front plate of a bicycle we pulled out of a river in Switzerland. Almost as if someone placed it there to mock us.
Keep your eyes peeled
On Thursday we met up with the lovely people of Trash Hero Zürich, a non-profit organisation dedicated to educate and act about environmental pollution through incorrect garbage disposal. They organise cleanup events on a regular basis and make it super easy for volunteers to join them - no cost, no equipment needed - just show up! So that’s what we did and together with 15 other volunteers, we helped to clean up a sidewalk next to a river in the city's center. Interesting how one never really notices all the trash until you start looking for it - it’s everywhere!
What is one cigarette butt gonna do?
Within an hour, we collected over 40 kilograms of trash (cigarette butts, bottles, cans, foils, even makeup palettes, hair brushes, bike lights.. I could keep going). This isn’t even counting in the bicycle I mentioned earlier and two e-scooters, both from ride sharing companies, that were carelessly thrown into the river.
Sure, some might think, "oh what’s one cigarette butt gonna do?" But add up the millions and millions of people doing the same thing. One cigarette butt can pollute up to 40 litres of water! The runoff from rain washes out the toxic chemicals and eventually ends up in groundwater, rivers and lastly the ocean.
A Sisyphus task
So it became very obvious to us, that trash is a huge problem. Even when we dispose of it correctly. What we throw away seems to be gone at first but of course it doesn’t just magically disappear. The handling of our day to day garbage is a sisyphus task and even the best waste management system cannot cover the huge amounts of “hidden” trash people thoughtlessly throw out just like that.
So what are we taking away from this experience?
Environmental protection is first and foremost a challenge of behavioural change.
If people don’t know, how can they care? NGOs like Trash Hero work towards building awareness for these issues. They’re in the street cleaning up as well of course, but I think their most valuable contribution is making people stop, wonder, think… and hopefully act accordingly and think twice next time before throwing something into the street, instead of finding the next garbage bin.
So a big thank you to all the volunteers helping on Thursday and the guys from Trash Hero! Check out their website to find the group closest to you or start your own.
And pssst… we will join another Trash Hero event on Sunday. This time in Prague! Come join us!
Check out Trash Hero
Title picture © Diana Mühlberger