"Don't be trash" - An Initiative to Raise Eco Awareness

"Don't be trash" - An Initiative to Raise Eco Awareness


Text by: Sanja Janevska


Category: Environment


Don't be trash is a non-formal civic initiative that was born in the Republic of North Macedonia, a country with amazing nature but yet challenged by serious eco issues and super high rates of air pollution. It all began when Irena Ristic, a Macedonian actress decided to uptake a voluntary clean-up activity due to the enormous trash quantities laying around everywhere in the country.
This initiative has been running for almost one year now and has been spread quite quickly through social media and has been sustained through social media as well. It all started because of the inertness and sleepiness of the local services and institutions. One of Irena's colleagues had a dream that they- the actors are cleaning up some governmental institution. That was the initial push they needed in order to start organize themselves through social media. On the first clean-up action, there were 20 people present, ready to put their glowes, open the garbage bags and be the change they want to see in the world. What was started with several people only, today is a movement of conscious citizens contributing to better quality of life in their communities. "But knowing our mentality that won't last for long. But we have couple of fanatics that will continue with the work", explains Irena during an interview for a Macedonian daily newspaper, "Vecher".
The activists behind "Don't be trash" have the tools and equipment needed to perform all the clean - up activities: the brooms, trash bags and gloves - but they lack mechanization such as excavator to pick up and collect the trash.
"We as a country are very far from garbage recycling and selection. We are very far from the concept of zero waste as well, because the majority of people are not even worried about the quality of air they are breathing, which determinates if you are going to even see the light of the day once you fall asleep, not to talk about worrying about which piece of paper has been thrown or whether someone is sorting out trash or not", discusses Irena during her speech at a conference in Skopje. So far, they try to collect the trash in one place and they do that quite neatly, while they wait for the services and the institutions to pick up the collected trash. Sometimes it takes up to a week, ten days, once they even waited one month for the institutions to do their job and collect the trash.
The idea of "Don't be trash" has started to spread around through the whole country as a virus with clean-up actions and volunteers present and active in different cities around the country. The way how they detect and choose the next location where they will have a clean-up action is quite simple. During one clean-up action they are discussing about a site where the situation with the trash is quite alarming and where they can work without mechanization and there, on the spot, they decide on their next location. Additionally, they have a Facebook group where they communicate regularly and where members quite often send pictures of neglected areas where they think they should organize a clean-up activity.
"The goal which is already set is to become the cleanest country in Europe - our contribution is big and it is beginning to be more and more visible, but we do not have neither resources nor logistics to cover the whole country - but maybe we will become more tighter - I am a very persistent person and I do not give up because I understand that it will be either us who are conscious or them who will destroy. And if I give up now, if we give up... I don't know where the people's need for beautiful things went... The trash is our reflection - reflection of the poverty, of the lack of education, of the bad education, of the break - up of one system and the apathy that is present. We, with these happy, colorful shirts, with the laughter are trying to break all of that and to bring back the normal spirit, the normal way of breathing of this country, which is by the way is one of the, for me, one of most beautiful in the world", passionately describes Irena.
Irena and her fellow activists are tired of the inertness of the institutions and say that while the institutions are sleeping - the people are awake and she says that she is happy for each and every one new awaken person. So far, they have had organized over 40 clean-up activities and they are not planning to stop anytime soon.
If you'd like to keep up with them and their clean -up actions you can do so by following them on Instagram