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Student’s War on Trash Affects Real Change

“It’s not very often that you see two 17-year-olds wake up early on a Saturday morning to go pick up garbage,” laughs Sam from PickWaste, an organization these two friends started to try to clean up litter in the Toronto area.

PickWaste exists thanks to the inspiration provided by Sam’s grade 12 World Issues teacher. “He was a very passionate, caring man that truly believed in the power of young people,” Sam explains. “All semester he taught his class history that tends to get left out of textbooks. He would break down the lives of figures from history like Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, William Wilberforce, Fabio Rosa, Bill Drayton, Gandhi, Malala, Gloria Steinem, Florence Nightingale and many more. He would reverse engineer their lives to prove to us that there was one characteristic common among all these changemakers, and if we chose to embody that one thing, we too could change the world.”

The characteristic? Small consistent actions are all it takes to effect global change.

“He convinced me that anybody could begin making a massive change and all they had to do was take a small action consistently. That lesson stuck with me, so much so that I could not stop thinking about it,” says Sam. “So, on my walks home from school I asked myself what small consistent action I could commit to. Two weeks later, the answer to that question hit me, literally, as I stumbled over a piece of trash.”

Sam reached down and picked up that piece pf trash and, for four months, he picked up trash every day in his commute to and from school.

It was while he was walking home with his big trash bag picking up litter that a car pulled up beside him and a student he barely knew from school asked what he was doing.

“I explained to him the theory my teacher taught me, and then Dillon – the co-founder of PickWaste – suggested that we both do weekly cleanups,” Sam explains. “Can one person really make a difference? Absolutely. Looking back through history, you would notice that every major change started with one idea, one action, one person, just one small win that starting the ball rolling. That one person used their passion and vision to inspire others to get involved. When you wholeheartedly believe in a cause you exude passion that is contagious to everyone around you,” Sam says.

Sam and Dillon are working to help clean up the world. They organize trash clean up and inspire other young people to join their cause. There are other trash collection trends going on all around the world.

One activity that originated in Europe a few years ago is known as “plogging”, picking up trash while jogging. It has slowly spread around the world and has recently made its way onto the news and a few viral videos on Facebook.

“Over the past year and a half, we have learned a tonne from picking up trash. Sadly, we were cleaning the same location multiple times every few months due to new litter that was thrown there. We realized that litter is a symptom of a much bigger problem: a lack of education, awareness and care. Therefore, as of 2019 we have gone through a rebrand to reposition ourselves as an educational company. We will be teaching kids to respect and understand our environment in the hope that they will take sustainable actions in their futures. We have already spoken at over 30 schools, performed on 2 TEDx stages and a few camps, but this year we want to zero in on the elementary grade level. Grades 1 to 8 is a prime time to influence younger kids and we want to make sure that when they grow up, they will begin to factor the environment into all the decisions they make.

To join PickWaste you can subscribe to our email list by sending an email to [email protected] or send us an email if you want to start your own cleanup and we’ll tell you how. You can take a picture of some trash you picked up and send it to @pickwaste on Instagram or Facebook and we will be sure to post it somewhere. If you are interested in having us speak reach out at!”


Nikki is an author and writer specializing in green living ideas and tips, adventure travel, upcycling, and all things eco-friendly. She's traveled the globe, swum with sharks and been bitten by a lion (fact). She lives in a tiny town with a fat cat and a very bad dog.

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  1. Pingback: PickWaste, What is it & How did it Start | Sam Demma

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