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Haywood County native behind ‘#trashtag’ sensation

The viral #trashtag and #trashtagchallenge hashtags created by a Sylva resident are inspiring people all over the world to pick up litter where they find it The viral #trashtag and #trashtagchallenge hashtags created by a Sylva resident are inspiring people all over the world to pick up litter where they find it Steven Reinhold photo

A trending hashtag … err … #trashtag has been gaining worldwide attention for encouraging people to photograph pictures of the trash they pick up, so it should be no surprise that the person who came up with the idea is from rural Haywood County in rugged, scenic Western North Carolina.

“The idea for the #trashtag started on a road trip,” said Sylva resident Steven Reinhold, who grew up in Waynesville. “We were in the Sierra Nevadas where I’d done some mountaineering. I bought some trucker hats but a receipt blew out the window, and I thought, ‘Oh God, I’m part of the problem.’”

Reinhold vowed to pick up 100 pieces of trash to, in his words, “atone” for that wayward receipt. By the time he’d got to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, he’d photographed and geo-tagged enough of it that it gave him an idea.

“I wanted to see if I could make picking up trash seem cool,” he laughed.

After ending up at the Outdoor Retailer tradeshow, Reinhold approached a company he’d worked with called UCO Gear and pitched his hashtag idea, figuring the outdoor equipment retailer had the social media might to launch a movement. But that was back in 2015.

“For a couple of years, it did pretty well,” said Reinhold. “Then, it just kind of plateaued.”

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March 5, 2019 was one of those serendipitous, kismet moments for Reinhold and #trashtag when an Arizona veteran and marketing educator named Byron Roman made the right Facebook post, at the right time.

Byron Roman trashtag

“Here is a new #challenge for all you bored teens. Take a photo of an area that needs some cleaning or maintenance, then take a photo after you have done something about it, and post it," reads Roman's message. 

Steven Reinhold

Since then, #trashtag and #trashtagchallenge have blown up on social media and earned notice from major outlets including Forbes, The Washington Post, British Broadcasting Company and even The India Express, half a world away.

“I got a call from CNN and kinda thought it was a prank call,” said Reinhold. The Tuscola High School grad said that growing up in Waynesville - the gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains - and tromping about Haywood County during his adolescence played a substantial role in his eco-consciousness.

"Obviously, I grew up in a beautiful place and I’ve been into the outdoors for a long time now. One of my favorite things to do is get up on a mountaintop and point out other mountains. They seem like old friends to me. Growing up here, I learned nice values like picking up after myself,” he said. “I saw trash and wondered why people would do that."

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