​The Men Who Helped The #Trashtag Challenge Go Viral

The viral world is all too often a murky place, full of YouTubers laughing at dead bodies or people swallowing Tide pods.

However, sometimes we get a positive story that picks up traction for all the right reasons - one that not only restores our faith in humanity, but also inspires us to go and be better people.

One of the latest movements to go viral has been the #Trashtag Challenge, which has prompted people across the globe to head outside and pick up litter, photographing the patch of land they've transformed before and after the clean-up.

One of the many examples of someone completing the #Trashtag Challenge. Credit: Reddit
One of the many examples of someone completing the #Trashtag Challenge. Credit: Reddit

The main man behind the movement is Steven Reinhold, an 'adventure philanthropist' who came up with the idea back in 2015 when he was road tripping in the United States with a friend.

"I had an inadvertent littering accident when a receipt blew out of my truck window and I vowed to pick up 100 pieces of trash to make up for the incident," Reinhold, who grew up on the mountains of western North Carolina, told LADbible.

"As I travelled around the country, picking up trash in various National Parks, the idea for #Trashtag was born! I concluded that trip at the Outdoor Retailer show where I pitched the idea to one of my outdoor sponsors, UCO Gear. They jumped on board and helped springboard the project in to existence."

Steven Reinhold started the movement back in 2015. Credit: Steven Reinhold
Steven Reinhold started the movement back in 2015. Credit: Steven Reinhold

However, there's another person who played an instrumental part in the movement - and that's the man who helped it go viral - 53-year-old Byron Román.

"I saw the photo in a friend's Facebook post - she was sharing it from another page," Román, a mortgage loan officer from Phoenix, Arizona, told us.

"At the time, I did not know who the young man was but I felt inspired to share it."

The post that helped the movement go viral. Credit: Byron Román
The post that helped the movement go viral. Credit: Byron Román

Reinhold explained the movement had seen a 'steady and impressive' organic growth over the first few years of its life, but it was Román's post in March that helped the idea really get up and running.

Reinhold said: "On a fortunate day for the planet, a man named Byron Román reposted a cleanup effort he saw and tagged it to the #Trashtag challenge.

"Byron's post was a picture of a handsome young man from Algeria named Drici who had posted an awesome cleanup effort of his own. His post was subsequently shared by a tour company in Guatemala which is where Byron saw the post and linked it to #Trashtag.

"Now, we are getting thousands of posts a day and I've seen #Trashtag stories from seemingly every news outlet on the planet!"

Román being interviewed by a Phoenix news channel. Credit: CBS 5
Román being interviewed by a Phoenix news channel. Credit: CBS 5

He added: "This shows the beauty of the internet and how it connects us all."

Román figured that if a handful of people saw his post and cared enough about it to go out and take on the challenge, that would be a job well done.

But he had no idea of just how many internet users the image would eventually reach.

"It took about three days but by that Friday I noticed that I was getting more likes and shares than usual," Román explained.

"I was up to 100, and then started doubling about every hour.

"By Saturday I had a few thousand shares but it kept going up, around 30,000 by that night, and 70,000 by the next morning.

"Now, it was exciting to see my post being shared, but when it hit me was when people from around the world started sending me messages and photos of them doing the challenge

"By that Tuesday I had over 300,000 shares."


Reinhold said he's been mind-blown by all of the pick-up efforts taking place across the planet, and has particularly enjoyed finding out about kids picking up with their parents, picking up with their schools and even independently.

"That gives me hope for the future," he said.

However, he's keen to remind people that the #Trashtag concept is about much more than picking up a piece of litter.

"Being part of the #Trashtag movement is committing to using your voice to help the planet and realising that we are all connected so what you say and do matters," he continued.

"If you're thinking of getting involved you totally should! Picking up #Trashtag's is fun and you should tell all of your friends about it! Make sure to make your message personal and to help inspire others to join the #Trashtag project!"

Román added: "Stop saying 'I am only one person, what can I do?'

"You can do plenty. Even if you do a little, it's more than nothing."

And remember, that's from someone whose single Facebook post ended up spurring on a global movement.

Featured Image Credit: PA/Steven Reinhold/Byron Román

Jess Hardiman

Jess Hardiman is a journalist who graduated from Manchester University with a BA in Film Studies, English Language and Literature, and has previously worked for Time Out and The Skinny among others.

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