“Be the change you wish to see in the world.” This oft-quoted adage has become a bit of a cliché, but that doesn’t render it untrue. Indeed, this inspiring dutch guy has proven that having a can-do attitude can lead to massive transformations for the better.
This is Tommy Kleyn, an artist from Rotterdam in The Netherlands.
Every day, he rides a bike to work like the true Dutchman that he is.
While it’s a nice enough route for the most part, he does have to ride past a stretch of riverbank heavily littered with trash.
It bugs the hell out of him, and it’s easy to see why.
Most people would probably just ride past. On a good day some might even angrily stew over the situation in righteous indignation. Tommy, however, is not ‘most people’.
Armed with a pair of grippers and rubbish bag, he decided to get off his bike and start picking up trash.
“It took me about 30 minutes to fill one garbage bag with trash. Roughly the same amount of time I would spend thinking about it [sic],” he said.
One bag, however, barely made a dent in an area as polluted as this.
“I vowed to fill one bag of trash each day I passed the spot. At least, until the reeds started to grow. So, taking non-workable days due to weather into account, I had to get to it!”
“It was very simple: take the plastic, put in the bag, put the bags next to the nearby trash bin.”
“Working outside, making a real change, gives one a good feeling about one’s self.”
In just six days, Tommy was able to clean up this much area.
Here’s Tommy — all 6 feet, 9 inches of him — in action.
“I could go for some longer grippers,” he joked.
“After a while, I discriminated between ‘sexy trash’, like plastic bottles and other easy-to-pick-up stuff that are really visible and have a big visual impact after being removed, …”
“…and this stuff: the bulk of the trash is made up of sheets of plastic covered in brown algae.”
“The previous pile of grimey plastic came from this small 12×12 inch pit. It took 20 minutes to empty and filled up one garbage bag. Really demotivating.”
“I found out that one bag a day is the max. After 30 minutes, one tends to get really annoyed with the sheer amount of plastic. The back pain doesn’t help either.”
To make sure that his clean-up project doesn’t encroach on his day job, Tommy wakes up half an hour earlier each day.
He also got a callus from using the gripper so often.
“One day, workers from the municipal government showed up. They picked up a lot of the ‘sexy trash’ and put it in these white bags. The grey one’s mine,” he said.
They left behind a lot of the trash that was harder to pick up, however.
Not only that, “the location was next to a bike path, and quite a few people got off their bikes and said what a great initiative this was. And then got back up on their bikes and rode off,” Tommy said.
While local support for the initiative may seem somewhat lukewarm, Tommy’s Project Schone Schie is slowly gaining traction in other European areas, and even as far as Taiwan.
In the Danish town of Skagen alone, a group of citizens have cleaned up over 950 kilos of plastic from their beach!
“Last night, I came across this picture from Tsunyu Chen. She has done the same in Taiwan!”
With his regular bike route vastly improved — and a global movement that’s quickly gaining momentum — it does look as if Tommy’s hard work and back pain have, indeed, paid off.
But the biggest pay-off of all?
“I give thee this: A Eurasian Coot. This one started nesting in the part which I cleaned,” he wrote.
Faith in humanity firmly restored!