A man from North Carolina has collected more than 7,000 bags of trash throughout his life in a bid to help the environment and keep his local area clean.
Daniel Toben first started collecting trash in 2009 while studying at North Carolina State University, when he noticed a stream near his dorm was filled with plastic bottles. Taking it upon himself to start clearing them, eventually people began to join him in his efforts.
Since then, Daniel has actively collected trash all over his home state of North Carolina, both by himself and with groups he has organised.
Since he began tracking his efforts two years ago, Daniel has found he’s collected more than 7,000 bags of trash – although he will have collected much, much more from the years before he started tracking. Amazingly, he does all this work alongside his full-time job as a sandwich shop manager.
Daniel, 31, spoke to about how he started collecting trash:
I was just a student and different people started to notice and started to help. I wanted to do something hands-on and make an impact. I wanted to figure out ways I may be able to help the environment and what I found I could really make the most impact by trying to beautifying the natural areas around me. I just got into that as my hobby.
Since then, all my free time – away from my job managing a sandwich shop in Chapel Hill – has been spent finding new ways to organise my clean-ups. I use a downloadable phone application called Fulcrum that tracks every location I and volunteers clean. I track the location, the number of bags collected and take pictures to show the impact.
Daniel got people’s attention after he began sharing photos of himself doing his work on his personal Facebook page. He eventually went on to set up a GoFundMe page called ‘Mission to Beautify Our Communities’, where enough money was raised for him to buy a truck that enabled him to collect even more rubbish.
He hasn’t only collected trash; Daniel has also found illegal oil dumping sites, recovered hundreds of gallons of toxic chemicals including oil, antifreeze, paints, cement epoxies, pesticides, industrial chemicals, and more.
The 31-year-old has even managed to return a couple of lost pets to their owners.
Since starting his work, he set up an official Facebook page called ‘The Earth Stewards‘ as well as a TikTok account as a way to communicate with people who want to get involved, and show people what he’s up to. His TikTok page boasts more than 225,000 followers and has so far generated an impressive 1.5 million likes.
@danieltobenDay 51: I clean up trash everyday all over the place. SLAMMMM THAT follow y’all. It’s gonna be lit 🔥.##HealthyHabits6Step ##BackyardVibes♬ original sound – danieltoben
In light of the ongoing health crisis, Daniel has found his work hours as a manager have ‘dramatically reduced’, so he’s been investing a lot of time in his environmental efforts.
I am now spending between four and eight hours most days at the clean-ups. I’m far enough away from other people I feel safe from the virus. I’m in my own realm for a while, and it just gives me an incredible sense of pride to know that I’m cleaning up. I have a sense of accomplishment.
When the beach/stream/road is all clean, it’s not just cleaner, but safer too. The idea of that makes me happy especially during COVID. My friends who have participated in clean-ups have gone from feeling isolated to, by the end, amped and enthusiastic.
Daniel’s goals include becoming a role model to people in his local community, as well as creating a Public Service Announcement featuring prominent figures to encourage all statewide residents to help keep the state natural and clean.
In the meantime, he’s encouraging people to get involved in cleaning up the mess that’s already there.
He said to
You know, anyone can do this too. You can get the right kind of gloves and trash bags at any gas station and just do it yourself, and it’s not bad work. It’s kind of fun to do. In terms of being environmentally positive, this is a pretty good thing to do, because plastic lasts for 500 years, so when you do it, you’ve cleaned something up that would have been there for 500 years.
We have also produced most of the world’s plastic in the past 15 years, so this may well be the future.
This work is also for the whole human community and planet. Litter and pollution can serve as obstacles to prosperity, and they can be detrimental to the ecology. Through removing trash and pollution from our environmental we care for the success of all people, plants, animals, and other beings.
We should all try to be more like Daniel.