Youth Initiative Turns Litter into Ecotreasure

Five young people living in Sofia have turned litter into ecotreasure within a project called 1planet in Sofia, BTA learned from Yoana Mehandzhiyska of the Values, Virtues, Integrity Foundation, which is part of the project team.

The project aims to raise awareness about climate change and inspire people to take concrete action in their daily lives. It was presented at an international webinar on Boosting Youth Activism on Climate Change, which brought together organizations and activists from 32 countries. The Foundation also shared a booklet describing the informal workshops within the project.

The project was the brainchild of Carla Barrado, Yoana Mehandzhiyska, Alexander Nalbantov, Stanislava Lefterova and Yuliana Rumenova, who have decided to turn cleaning the litter in the urban environment into a game.

They have compiled a list of “ecotreasures”, which are a small part of the usual litter in the playgrounds: three plastic bottles, three coffee stirrers, two ice-cream wrappers, two plastic cups, five plastic bags, glass waste, paper waste, etc.

Following this list, children group in teams of two or three and join the hunt. Those of them who manage to collect the items on the list receive prizes: rubbers, stickers, or T-shirts.

“The very first time we held the game, the magic happened: the participants were so engrossed in this fun activity that they didn’t want to stop. Once they had collected the ‘treasures’ on the list, they decided to clean up all the remaining litter on the site themselves. It all happened in a matter of minutes – excited children and adults would carry bags after bags of litter, and the place changed,” Mehandzhiyska said.

The initiators of the project found that it was the fun experiences the children craved that made them get this useful work done. That is why they believe that the pleasant memories in children and young people related to the maintenance of the urban environment will stimulate them to get involved and organize similar initiatives themselves in the future. These hands-on activities were complemented by educational workshops where participants learned more about what and how to recycle, how to reduce their carbon footprint, what conscious consumption is, etc.

More than 200 volunteers took part in the 12 campaigns in Sofia within the initiative. Over 80 bags of litter were collected.

The project also has a Facebook page created by Spanish volunteer Carla Barrado and followed by many foreigners residing in Sofia who have also joined the clean-up events.