Determined to “clean up the streets” a small group of volunteers in a suburb outside of Stockholm, Sweden, struggled to find trash to fill their bags. Armed with gloves, oversized trash bags, and water to stay hydrated in the hot June sun, the group wandered along the pedestrian paths searched for anything to grab using their trash pickers.
Occasionally, one volunteer yipped with joy after discovering a plastic cup had fallen out of a trash can. One stepped-on grocery store receipt was picked up and placed into the nearly-empty trash bags.
“What are you guys doing out here working on a Saturday?” one man sitting on a bench asked the volunteers.
“We don’t work for the kommun; we’re here to clean up our community, sir. You have a nice day.”
Except the community was already quite clean.
“Just seeing people out and about picking up trash on the side of the road might encourage others to be more mindful of picking up after themselves…” one volunteer offered hopefully.
“Is this trash?” a six-year-old inquired.
“No, that’s just a dirty leaf. It can stay.”
After much walking and picking up a few cigarette butts from the bushes, the volunteers, desperate to find something, started searching under the boat docks of the canal.
Turning out to be a goldmine of trash, the volunteers gleefully pulled out a few plastic soda bottles, an old boat battery, and a foam mattress soaked with mud and water.
“That was good, but I’m kind of disappointed there wasn’t more for us to clean. All I found were cigarette butts and snus packets.”
“Let’s head to the playground. There are always youngsters who leave trash behind.”
A few bits of broken glass, plastic cups, and cigarette butts found at the local playground provided some work and a sense of accomplishment for the volunteers.
Feeling triumphant at last, after an hour and a half of walking the streets, the volunteers took off their gloves, passed around the hand sanitizer, and went for ice cream.