Taking a Closer Look at the #TrashTag Challenge

Photo by Ocean Cleanup Group on Unsplash

The #TrashTag Challenge is a social mobilization initiative that started in 2019 by Byron A Román that encouraged teens to clean a part of their community. It started to gain traction among netizens which began a worldwide trend. Let us try to examine this social movement.


Environmental degradation is a global problem. It is an issue faced by developed and developing countries and one aspect of this problem is waste. The #TrashTag Challenge is a call for the people to save the environment and it supports the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of making sustainable communities and cities, protecting our environment and acting against climate change.


As identified by Figueroa et al., the social change process starts with the recognition of the problem. In the case of the #Trashtag Challenge, netizens noticed that there is a need to act on waste disposal problems and proceeded to act on it based on the simple rules set on the post. From the point of view of Andreasen, we can say that people discovered the problem through individual insights and argumentation through the post of Román.

It is interesting to note how online virality can help in promoting development causes. Van der Linden, in an article in the Scientific American website, coined a term for this phenomenon: viral altruism. He defined it as “the act of one individual directly inspires another, spreading rapidly like a contagion across a network of interconnected individuals.”

In my opinion, virality is a tool that can aid the transformation of a community and individual behavior. It inspires people to act and do something about a societal problem.


From my observation, some ‘online challenges’ can be characterized as ‘ningas-kugon,’ a social phenomenon where people support a cause only at its beginning. A ‘challenge post’ goes viral on social media, it mobilizes the users of that social networking platform, and then, it is suddenly out of the public radar. People just want to participate when it is a ‘hot’ issue online. And as mentioned by Van der Linden, people do it for the ‘extrinsic value’ of helping.


Van der Linden suggests some ways to solve this ‘slacktivism’ and increase the longevity of viral altruism. More meaningful engagement can sustain these challenges and these online movements can be attached to an event. For example, the #TrashtagChallenge can be linked to Earth Day. People can join the celebration of the event by posting their own #TrashTag challenge.


Online challenges are proof that we are now acting as a global community to solve societal problems. The challenge that we have now is: how can we make online mobilization a reflection of the truest sense of the words social change?


Andreasen, Alan R. Social Marketing In The 21st Century. SAGE Publications, 2006, pp. 3–29.

Figueroa, Ma. Elena, Kincaid, Lawrence D. Rani, Manju, and Lewis, Gary. 2002.

Communication for Social Change Working Paper Series. Sections 2 and 3 pp14–35

Linden, Sander van der. “The Surprisingly Short Life of Viral Social Movements.” Scientific American, Scientific American, 15 Feb. 2017, http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-surprisingly-short-life-of-viral-social-movements/.

Nace, Trevor. “#TrashTag Challenge Goes Viral As People Share Before/After Photos Of Their Cleanup.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 12 Mar. 2019, www.forbes.com/sites/trevornace/2019/03/12/trashtag-challenge-goes-viral-as-people-share-beforeafter-photos-of-their-cleanup/#5d12381795e8. Accessed 20 January 2020

Román, Byron A. Trashtag Challenge. Facebook, 6 Mar. 2019, 12:20 a.m., https://web.facebook.com/byron.roman1/posts/10156466236659055. Accessed 20 January 2020

“SDGs: Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform.” United Nations, United Nations, sustainabledevelopment.un.org/sdgs.

Originally published at http://erwinsiron.wordpress.com on January 22, 2021.



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