We sat down to interview the incredible Tijmen Sissing – Founder of Trashpackers. Tijmen is an inspirational Dutch native who’s backpacking holiday turned him into a local hero and man on a mission to clean up the world!
What inspired you to start collecting Trash?
I never expected that starting with one bin bag would turn into a global movement of thousands of people wanting to clean up the world.
My story really began while I was holidaying in Malaysia on July 2018. I couldn’t stand seeing trash littered on beaches while both tourists and locals did nothing so I thought, ‘Why don’t I clean it?’
I wasn’t expecting any help and was completely surprised by the sudden attention I received from the locals. They found it strange that I, a guest of their country, was cleaning up their local beach. People were making videos, wanted a selfie with me, shook my hand and thanked me for contributing. Some even offered me food and drinks.
That’s a pretty incredible result from a one-day beach clean up! How was Trashpackers born?
One of the locals posted a video of me on Facebook, which went completely viral with over 250,000 views on day one! From that moment, I decided to create the Trashpackers Facebook page, which gained over 10,000 followers in a week.
I was completely inspired to do more good.
Seeing the local children’s reactions to me cleaning up their beach was the best reward, so much so, I decided to embark on a Trashpacking Tour from north to south Malaysian-Borneo. 442 locals joined my beach cleanups, collecting 959 bin bags. During this time people more people were sending me pictures of their own beach cleanups and before I knew it, a movement was born.
How many people are now involved in your mission to Clean Up The World?
Today it’s not just travellers who are contributing to cleanups, local communities are now doing regular cleanups. We even launched the first Global Trashpacking Day. 43 countries got involved, making it an international event.
We also launched Collect2Protect – A Global Clean-Up Campaign in conjunction with OrcaNation and Rawa Island Resort. Trashpackers have the chance to win a 4-night holiday on Rawa Island Resort, Malaysia with a scuba diving experience from OrcaNation. The competition is running for 6-weeks until 20 September!
Our communities also include Mexico, Vietnam, Angola, Indonesia, Belgium, Italy and it keeps growing! Vietnam even made a ‘Trashpacker Park’ made out of rash, they cleaned up canals and left awareness murals and gave workshops to over 13,000 kids. When we cleaned up Vinh Long in Vietnam, more than 300 volunteers joined us together with the military and excavators and trucks from the government. In one week we cleaned up 118,000 kilos of trash.
When it comes to collecting trash and protecting our environment, how important is education?
One thing is very clear, regardless of the number of videos and articles you see on social media about the world’s plastic problem: it’s not enough. Not so long ago, scientists found out that the amount of plastic in the ocean is twice as much as we imagined. This is because they found even more plastic layered at the bottom of the ocean than on the surface.
That’s why Trashpackers aim higher than simply cleaning up, which is only a part of the solution. Like OrcaNation, we want to raise awareness and inspire change. Hence I go to schools to give talks about plastic pollution, as well as share my story of becoming The Traspacker.
OrcaNation has the same passion for educating children about our oceans and changing behaviours in order to protect our future. They’ve also helped to facilitate my keynote speeches at several international schools in Singapore. I came to these schools to inspire students, although if I am honest, I was the one who came back completely inspired and warmed by the attitudes of these amazing local kids!
The children of Singapore really care about the planet and have a proactive attitude towards taking steps to clean up our world. They are a great example of how we should all do more to care for our planet.
How can people get involved in cleanups?
Easy, become a Trashpacker! All you have to do is register on our website (it’s free!). I really recommend joining our Collect2Project Clean Up Challenge. It’s a great way to start and you could even win a holiday at Rawa Island Resort!