Earth is calling... Thijmen Sissing

Large-scale plastic clean-up by backpackers


Every year 50 million kilos of litter end up on the street or in nature. The amount of waste we produce will only increase in the future, due to the growing world population and economy (source: MilieuCentraal). In the Netherlands, we don't really notice, but on the Indonesian island of Bali, the people talk of a new natural phenomenon: the plastic season. On a regular day, tens of thousands of kilos wash up on the southern shore. After China, Indonesia is the largest plastic polluter in the world (source: NOS). 

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In short

  • Every year 50 million kilos of litter end up on the street or in nature. This pollution will only increase in the future. 
  • Environmentally friendly backpacker (“Trashpacker”) cleans up waste during trips and reduces personal consumption of plastic


Global Goal

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There are numerous initiatives globally to clean up litter and reduce the plastic soup in the oceans. Tijmen Sissing (27) from Hengelo has also started such an initiative, successfully. As a trashpacker, a backpacker who cleans up trash, he is a phenomenon in Southeast Asia. His great initiative spreads fast throughout Southeast Asia. 

Trashpacker: environmentally friendly backpacker

“A trashpacker is an environmentally friendly backpacker who cleans up waste during trips and reduces personal consumption of plastic. The idea was born in 2012 when I was travelling in Australia and Southeast Asia”, says Tijmen. While Australian beaches were clean, those in Thailand and Laos were a garbage dump. “I was shocked. How could we have gotten to this point? The huge contrast was the inspiration for the trashpacker idea. I’ve always been socially involved. For example, I worked for nine years with young people with psychological problems and did a social study: applied psychology. It made me see and understand this problem and how to contribute to solving it. I’ve trained people on personal value, ambition and motivation for a while. Those topics are all reflected in the trashpacker idea: contributing to a bigger picture.”


When Sissing found a littered beach in Cambodia, he decided to put trashpacking to practice for the first time. “I stayed in a hostel in Phnom Penh and had had conversations with many people about the problem. I then thought: why keep talking and not do anything? Other backpackers were sceptical because the beach would be littered in a month again anyway. Exactly that scepticism provided the drive to push forward regardless.” When Sissing started cleaning, he immediately attracted attention. “People looked at me, smiled, gave thumbs up or started filming. I realised: this is interesting. It makes people think. I just had to step up my game.”

One year challenge

The next step will be made on the 8th of September when Tijmen launches the “Trashpacker Community”. It is a non-profit that creates a global movement that stimulates backpackers to start cleaning personally. “We created a one year challenge: 100,000 trash bags filled with litter must be collected within a year. Everyone can join by organising a clean-up themselves. When the world is free of litter, we can focus on restoring forests, but honestly, I think I can spend all my life cleaning litter. This is not just an Asian problem, but a global one.”

Date: 16 August 2018 |

Source of tekst: Tubantia |