Tuesdays for Trash: How Everyday Activism Saves the Planet

Four women smile, holding trash bags along a shoreline in Turkey

In the face of enormous corporate interests, doom-inducing news about the environment, and economic hardships that make it difficult to merely exist, it makes sense that so many young people feel like they can’t do anything to help save the planet.

I’ll say that again: It makes sense! 

That doesn’t mean that you should give into climate anxiety, but it does mean that it’s perfectly acceptable to start small. The size of the climate crisis seems like a giant ocean wave, and we’re just sitting there on our little surfboards with our metal straws and bamboo utensils, responsible for fixing it all.

5 smiling people stand outside, ready to pick up trash
Sharona Shnayder (center) co-founded Tuesdays for Trash to start a global movement for better waste management. Photo courtesy of Inigo Taylor/Tuesdays for Trash

The good news? In community, we can make a difference.

That’s what inspired Sharona Shnayder to start Tuesdays for Trash

What is Tuesdays for Trash?

Tuesdays for Trash is a global grassroots movement that aims to give people around the world a simple way to mobilize for a sustainable future. The mission? Pick up trash on Tuesdays. That’s it! What started as two friends picking up trash in their neighborhood now spans 40 countries with more than 10 chapters.

Like so many new endeavors, Tuesdays for Trash (also known as T4T) started during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. Shnayder and her friend, Wanda, wanted a way to get outside and give back to the community during lockdowns.

“We were feeling really restless and decided this would be the safest, easiest, and most impactful way to connect with our environment again,” Shnayder told Good Good Good. 

A group of 6 people sit on large rocks, holding up bags of trash.
T4T participants smile after a cleanup in Jaffa, Israel in January 2022. Photo courtesy of Nicolas Glasbauer/Tuesdays for Trash

The two began picking up trash on their university campus, and then they caught the bug for getting others involved. 

“Our vision was that if we can get everyone to love and care for our planet, the possibilities for change are endless,” she said. 

The simplicity of the mission — and its catchy title — made it easy to build community. As more people got in on the action, they’d share the progress from their cleanups using the #TuesdaysForTrash hashtag on social media. 

A girl holds up a Tuesdays for Trash sticker with a gloved hand.
Photo courtesy of Nicolas Glasbauer/Tuesdays for Trash

Now, three years later, the movement has found global awareness, giving way to a greater understanding of global waste management, activism learning opportunities, and how to hold the culprits of this crisis accountable. 

Over 38,000 pounds of trash have been removed from the environment by T4T participants, who span six continents. Over 10 specific chapters of the organization have popped up across the globe, from Shnayder’s homebase of Tel Aviv, Israel, to Portland, Oregon.

Participants can also help keep track of their progress by logging their weekly clean-ups on T4T’s Trash Tracker. The organization has also developed materials like an Activist Workbook to help maintain mobility among the community. 

And it’s working.

Sharona Shnayder sits on rocks, surrounded by bags of trash.
Sharona Shnayder. Photo courtesy of Nicolas Glasbauer/Tuesdays for Trash

“What we’ve found is that by cleaning up [Tel Aviv] for the past two years, it’s actually staying clean,” Shnayder said. “There’s a psychological aspect to littering, and when an area is clean, people are less inclined to trash it; they feel guilty or shameful, so eventually it stays that way.”

Tel Aviv is the biggest chapter of the T4T movement, and while Shnayder is proud of the efficacy of local stewardship, education, and community engagement, the next step is confronting the systems that enable environmental harm.

“In order to push this progress further, our team has been working on a waste management proposal with the president of Israel’s climate forum that will build the necessary infrastructure and actionable policy recommendations aimed at improving waste management practices, funding mechanisms, and representation in decision-making,” she said.

“When we do this, we hope to effect more resilient environments, sustainable livelihoods, and of course, communal knowledge exchange.”

How to participate in Tuesdays for Trash

The best way to engage with Tuesdays for Trash is by simply getting outside, picking up trash, sharing it on social media, and encouraging others. Participants can search for local chapters to join a group cleanup, or even start their own with the help of the organization. 

“The beauty of the movement is it’s so easy to join and take action,” Shnayder said. “That’s the entire point, really; turning this intimidating global crisis into a manageable and effective action that allows you to set a new routine and mindset as a steward of your local environment.” 

One especially exciting way to get involved is coming up on September 16, World Cleanup Day. 

6 women pose in front of trash bags, smiling
T4T participants at a cleanup in Bursa Turkey in April 2022. Photo courtesy of Dahlia Jamous/Tuesdays for Trash

Tuesdays for Trash is co-hosting an event called Run for the Planet, where participants across the globe can join together for a community-led or individual walk or run to pick up trash seen along their chosen route.

During the event, all participants are encouraged to stream, post, and discuss their findings on social media. 

“It may not be your trash, but it is your planet,” Shnayder said, encouraging people to join. “It's a ripple effect because collective action is made up of individuals, and that's really the crux of sustainable change.”

Header image courtesy of Dahlia Jamous/Tuesdays for Trash

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August 29, 2023 7:05 AM
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