20-year-old spearheads global movement to clean up trash

Sharona Shnayder is a Nigerian and Israeli climate activist and founder of Tuesdays for Trash, a movement that encourages people all over the world to pick up trash in their local areas.

The 20-year-old from Portland used her downtime in quarantine to start the movement, and now she’s set her sights on getting politicians and corporations involved. 

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“If everyone realized how severe this crisis was, there’d be no question about taking action and calling it out for what it is, which is an emergency that we’re facing,” Shnayder told In The Know. 

When Shnayder’s family came to America, they didn’t have much money. Sustainability became a practical way of life. She’d try to make her school backpack last for years or reuse items because she wasn’t sure if her parents would be able to afford anything new. 

“Sustainability is something that everyone can do and it’s going to be the only way we survive on this planet,” she said.

During the pandemic, volunteer operations all over were put to a halt. Shnayder came up with the idea of simply picking up neighborhood trash as a safe way to take action. When the group of volunteers got positive feedback it led to the formation of Tuesdays for Trash. Since its founding, 20 countries have gotten involved in cleaning up their communities every Tuesday.

Shnayder and company are now putting pressure on politicians to force businesses to take action on plastic waste. 

Senate Bill 14 is a bill on plastic stewardship in Oregon that is trying to get producers and corporations to think about the end of life of their products,” she explained. “So making sure it’s actually recyclable and maybe even considering switching to more sustainable materials.” 

Every piece of plastic ever created still exists today and the average lifecycle of plastic is 450 years. If plastics aren’t recycled they usually end up in landfills and oceans. 

“It’s so easy for people to ignore this crisis because it’s not directly affecting you or your home,” Shnayder said. “But I think what people need to realize is that we can’t have collective action without individual action. So if you’re not putting pressure on your politicians or these corporations to change their actions then it’s not going to change anything at all.” 

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