Nowadays, the internet is awash with incredible stories that inform and inspire. Due to the advent of social media, anyone can share their own personal experiences and thought-provoking tales with like-minded individuals. And that’s exactly what one Dutch litter picker has done, and his post has definitely attracted attention. Yes, this is the tale of how one man has been talking trash – but still getting people to listen to his worthy message.
Imgur is a website dedicated to offering a whole host of inspiring tales to its users, and one specific story about picking up trash has been circulating on the image sharing site. The prominent post in question comes from Imgur user PigsWeGetWhatPigsDeserve – whose real name is Tommy Kleyn. Hailing from the Netherlands – an area of the world renowned for its waterways and bike paths – the author and his post have certainly generated plenty of buzz. Yes, out of this tiny corner of Europe, his grassroots passion project went global.
You see, on April 14, 2015, Kleyn added an upload entitled “I did a thing.” And a lengthy post follows the intriguing opening. Told alongside a set of 42 images, the story details an activity undertaken each morning before work. Kleyn’s English may be a little bit broken, but his intent is clear. What’s more, his record of events has possibly motivated others to do the same.
The caption for Kleyn’s first paragraph, “The Thing,” kicks off proceedings by beginning to set the scene. The writer stated, “Everyday, I ride my bicycle to work along the riverbank (indeed, I’m Dutch). It’s a nice route to ride, except for one part.” So what had he seen in his commute by the waterway that broke up the attractive scenery?
Well, all becomes clear in the next paragraph, as Kleyn rather unambiguously titled this section “The Trash.” Sadly, you see, according to the post, “A stretch of the riverbank is covered in plastic bottles and other pieces of (mainly) plastic trash.” So it certainly wasn’t other commuters ruining the Dutchman’s journey to work: it was the sight of many plastics blighting the landscape.
Kleyn labeled the next phase “The Location” and helpfully included an annotated map of the affected area. Situated in Rotterdam, the Schie is a network of waterways, and Kleyn’s image shows clearly that debris covered much of the riverside – almost from bridge to bridge. And this discovery inspired the Dutchman to take significant steps to remedy the sorry situation.
The hero jumped into action then. Kleyn said, “The trash annoyed me very much. So, since I had a pair of grippers laying around, I decided to start picking up the trash.” And a quick scroll down to the title below proves that this step was only “The Start.”
Yes, half an hour later Kleyn, had maxed out a bag with detritus from the bank of the river. This substantial chunk of time was certainly productive, then, though sadly the big bag still seemed small in comparison with the amount of litter left behind. Indeed, Kleyn evidently thought the same as he remarked, “one bag doesn’t really make a dent in an area as polluted as this.” And that was “The Challenge.”
And as is apparent from the Dutchman’s pictures, improving the view would prove a sizable undertaking. A graphic in the bottom corner sometimes accompanies the photos as a handy visual representation of how many trash bags had been filled to date. In the picture titled “The Determination,” the corresponding number was a lowly two. But the Imgurian’s steady approach was little by little.
That’s right: Kleyn “vowed to fill one bag of trash each day [he] passed the spot. At least until the reeds started to grow.” One of his motivations was, understandably, a race against time. You see, if the reeds flourished before he was finished, the remaining rubbish would be hidden and therefore harder to clear.
Kleyn’s exertions were in essence “very simple: take the plastic, [put it] in the bag, put the bags next to the nearby trash bin.” And he truly valued the subtle way in which he was compensated. “Working outside making a real change gives one a good feeling about oneself,” he maintained. It’s often said that nature is the best medicine, after all.
And Kleyn soon had a wider audience than just the waterway’s watching wildlife. You see, he published his experience thus far on Facebook – a deed that he rather defensively admitted to the online community of Imgur – and his post gained a considerable amount of traction.
Yes, Kleyn’s story clearly struck a chord. Many commenters lavished praise on the guy too, with several expressing wishes that there were more humans on the planet taking the same initiative as the caring campaigner. And at trash bag number seven, these sentiments likely offered a necessary dose of support and motivation.
Kleyn’s buddies also helped keep him going. His friend Mark, for example, “stopped by every time he could” and “went above and beyond to do his part.” Kleyn even gave Mark the award for Most Valuable Player. The picture titled “The Help,” meanwhile, features another friend – Rick – helping out with trash bag number eight. He has come prepared for the cold weather, wearing gloves to do the dirty work. And although a scarf partially masks Rick’s smile, hopefully his contribution to the cause brought him happiness.
That’s perhaps more than could be said for the protagonist, who began to suffer from pains in his back from all the bending down to the ground. Seemingly Kleyn is very tall, as he described his height as 6’9”. In fact, he admitted that he “could go for some longer grippers.”
But despite Kleyn’s suffering and any lack of physical endurance, his next installment, “The Progress,” demonstrates that his efforts were not in vain. Yes, after just six days of clearing the site, the grass can be seen to be totally free of litter. The team had clearly made a major difference, and the milestone of ten bags was soon reached.
Seemingly, the journey had highs and lows along the way, and Kleyn “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.” In addition to the backbreaking work, then, his patience started to wear thin.
Nevertheless, one object did make the Dutchman pause. Yes, roughly halfway through his mammoth rubbish-collecting task, Kleyn discovered a small yellow bear among the detritus. When he found the children’s toy, dirt dulled it, but he spared the plastic creature from entering a landfill. He actually picked the little treasure to keep – as the sole material memento of his grueling riverside work.
Kleyn did, however, spare a thought for the rest of the refuse that he’d amassed. “Plastic wrapped in plastic. It’s really something to think about,” he mused. Yet “The Contrast” reveals the change that his work had brought about; while the left of the picture displays bottles and tin cans still marring the landscape, on the right the grass is a beautiful, natural oasis.
What’s more, it seems that Kleyn got to know the trash intimately. So much so, in fact, he could even readily distinguish between the quick wins – larger items that were conspicuous in their absence – and litter that he found difficult to extricate from the environment as nature had almost begun to claim it as its own.
Unfortunately, this latter type of trash made up a large proportion of the overall waste. And this might explain the somewhat dejected tone of Kleyn’s subsequent paragraph, “The Demotivation.” For the amount of time and effort involved, only a tiny 12” by 12” patch was cleared. But in spite of his limited progression, the nettles and various pockets of greenery were probably thankful anyway.
And Kleyn then thoughtfully turned his attention to the local fauna. You see, his activities “really disturbed the water fowl, so from time to time, [he] fed them some bread to show [he] was not out to hurt them.” Kleyn’s actions interrupted his own sleep pattern, mind you. That’s right: he had altered his alarm to sound 30 minutes early so that he could juggle his work commitments with the extracurricular cleanup.
But Kleyn’s ongoing efforts didn’t pass unnoticed. Yes, riders on the waterside lane stopped to praise his progress. And word obviously got back to people in power too, as on one particular occasion, government members presented themselves to muck in and help.
Kleyn did note, though, that these people focused on much of the easier trash to clear away. So while the extra hands made a sizable contribution, they apparently neglected the areas with the more tricky items. Kleyn, then, was seemingly a lone crusader in the fight against the stubborn litter that was hard to access.
Nonetheless, Kleyn’s paragraph entitled “The Tenaciousness” showcased his driven state of mind. The Dutchman had long since reached double figures in terms of trash bags, but after the 16th sack, he still committed to his environmental endeavor every single day. Indeed, the outdoor pursuit had in all likelihood become an intrinsic part of his routine.
It seems that Kleyn’s sanity may well have suffered at some points, though. His paragraph called “The Omen” claimed, “One day, the trash tried to communicate with me. I think these are Apple keys.” Was the garbage telling him to quit then? After all, the gift from the gutter had a hint of sorts. Indeed, the computer shortcuts seemed to suggest that he should plan his escape!
The environmental hero continued with his quest, though. But at trash bag number 17, in addition to filling the sacks themselves, the litter must have doubtless occupied Kleyn’s every waking thought as well. Indeed, in the paragraph “The Contemplating” he predicted, “By now, you’ll probably think I hate the stuff.” So had plastic become his mortal enemy?
No; in reality, Kleyn still had respect for his nemesis – namely, plastic – and proceeded to list its qualities. “It’s an exceptional material when you think about it. It’s waterproof, tough, light, cheap and easy to mold,” he wrote. But while these attributes explain the material’s popularity, the Dutchman went on to discuss its abuse.
“I do think we use it wrongly. For example, the trash bags I used came in A PLASTIC SLEEVE. See what I mean? It makes no sense to manufacture a product that has fulfilled its purpose as soon as it reached the consumer,” Kleyn reasoned. Especially, that is, for an item that can have a lifespan of 400 years.
But Kleyn has a solution. “Maybe one way to deal with this is to create laws that state that the lifespan of a packing material should at the most last 25 percent longer than the expiration date of the product,” he proposed. And while this might not be the perfect answer, the course of action would at least go some way to avoiding instances of plastic encased in plastic.
Moreover, Kleyn debated “the use of the word ‘disposable’ in relation to products. Disposable has some ring of a solution to it. We collected dozens upon dozens of disposable lighters, for instance.” His wish, then, may well have been to ban the word when inappropriately employed.
Eventually, though, there was light at the end of the tunnel. Yes, the finish line was in sight, and “The Satisfaction” humbly celebrated Kleyn’s recent achievements. “I filled the last two garbage bags today. Felt good!” he informed his followers. And he had a reason to feel proud of himself; you see, the penultimate gray bag sat on the vibrant green grassy backdrop.
At bag number 22, then, the final knot was tied, and Kleyn’s riverside work was done and dusted. His mission, however, wasn’t completed. That’s correct: his new aim was to mobilize an army of eco-warriors and “to motivate people to fill one garbage bag with litter each year.” He appealed to his readership and explained, “It only takes 30 minutes; it really makes a difference, and you will be amazed about how good you’ll feel afterwards.”
But Kleyn’s poor hands were no doubt wishing that he had less of a conscience. Indeed, a photo of his right hand shows the edge of a tattoo on his forearm and a callus in his palm. This minor injury was sustained from frequent use of the gripper, in fact, but his wound was surely worth it.
Yes, having grafted by the waterside, Kleyn and his gripper had worked their magic, and the moment of truth had finally arrived. With before and after snaps showing the same scene placed side by side, it was clear that Kleyn’s efforts had made “a big improvement!” The left shot shows rubbish as far as the eye can see, and the right exhibits a lush, verdant verge.
But Kleyn’s narrative wasn’t over quite yet. You see, a tradition on Imgur is to provide a photograph of a cat to round off a post. This originates from the theory that “there must be balance in the universe.” So if the content has been particularly emotional, multiple cats must be pictured to redress the balance and restore equilibrium.
In this case, however, Kleyn replaced the obligatory feline taxation with “The Coot Tax” as a fitting tribute to his work on the waterway. Summing up, he said, “Thanks for reading, but instead of a cat, I give thee this: A Eurasian Coot. This one started nesting in the part which I cleaned.” And if that stamp of approval isn’t validation, what is?
Kleyn’s Imgur post has resonated pretty well with its readership too. Indeed, it has racked up thousands of points and in excess of a million views. And Kleyn ideally wants to use his publicity to improve matters even further. In fact, he directs readers to a helpful link that gives information on how to participate in similar schemes. In turn, that leads to a Facebook page named Project Schone Schie – a movement Kleyn founded that resolves to have a positive impact on natural habitats.
Furthermore, Kleyn’s post scored a spot in a “Top 15 2015” compilation that showcased the cream of the crop on Imgur. In among the best of the year, his efforts ranked at number three. The entry, “Lakeside Cleanup,” showed a collage of his shots and a paragraph of text justifying its respectable bronze medal position within the list. And it reported that a government body is planning to set aside money to widen the project’s horizons.
Imgur, in fact, prides itself on hosting “the magic of the internet.” And with inspiring posts such as Kleyn’s doing the rounds, it’s not hard to see why. His efforts have arguably inspired the site’s users too. One user dubbed tinycrocodile chose capitals and commented, “I’M SERIOUSLY PROUD OF YOU.” Hopefully, Kleyn’s story has instigated a positive change in the world.