Cleaning up beaches became a passion that he cannot shake and wants to share with other people. Andreas told The Portugal News a little bit more about The Trash Traveller project.
The Portugal News (TPN): Why and when did The Trash Traveller project start?
Andreas: The Trash Traveller project started three and a half years ago, in 2019. I'm a biologist, a molecular biologist, and I was working and in my free time I was surfing, and I was confronted by a lot of plastic at the beaches and in the ocean. So, I wanted to do something about it and started to quit my job and create videos and funny ukulele songs for social media. I didn't know how, how this would all develop, and I had no proper idea, but I just wanted to do something.
TPN: What were those videos about?
Andreas: Basically, I was picking up trash or plastic at the beaches, along the coast of Portugal. I was working here already and every day I was documenting with videos what I picked up. And I brainstormed every day with my ukulele about what I found at the beach. Just to open eyes and raise awareness with positivity, creativity and something different so people would watch the videos. I decided at some point okay, I need to do something else to reach people outside of the social media bubble. So, I decided to walk the coast of Portugal every day.
Andreas started walking on the beaches, on a journey that took 58 days of walking, to pick up all the plastic that may exist on the shores. Through this a lot of media awareness was raised, pushing Andreas into national TV and newspapers.
TPN: Is the trash only collected at the beaches?
Andreas: No, because I want to show that our acts, some far away from the beach, are connected. Via rivers in Lisbon, for example, if you drop something on the ground if it goes into the drains then it straight goes into the ocean or the river, and it ends up there and breaks down to microplastics. Cigarette butts have a lot of toxins that with rain, leeches into ecosystems, and it can be hundreds of kilometres away from the ocean. That's what I want to show with these projects. My first two projects were along the coast. But then the bicycle tour was basically from Cascais to Sagres, to Vila Real de Santo António and then in the interior [route] Nacional 2.
TPN: Who is in the team of The Trash Traveller project?
Andreas: I have two film people. They're creating documentaries. We just managed to premiere on Saturday, our third documentary movie about the bike tour and the adventure we had as well.
TPN: You also offer people the opportunity of participating in workshops. What are they about?
Andreas: Workshops start with clean-ups. I always call it awareness action. We go out and we pick up some trash and we think about what we can do with the trash? I'm doing a lot of art and I always try to give value, to things. So, I asked the people to be creative, to reuse something out of trash, to build something out of trash. Or even going further to think what are we producing at home that is single-use? And how can we reduce the single-use? How can we reuse plastic bags? How can we reuse bottles?
TPN: Can you tell us what your biggest adventure has been as The Trash Traveller?
Andreas: The biggest adventure, I think was, the plastic hike 2020. Because it was a very crazy challenging way of walking almost every single metre, on sand. If you go to the beach and you walk on the sand, you don't want to do that for a long time.
TPN: As a biologist, how dangerous can plastic be for species?
Andreas: Just as a reference, a few years ago the WWF gave out information about several microplastics we ingest. Around five grams of microplastic every week. That is one credit card we are ingesting every week. And how do we do that via the food chain? For example, eating fish. Our products are breaking and leaking even microplastics into the water and the air. It's everywhere basically, and it's accumulating in the ocean.
TPN: What is the feedback from people, municipalities, climate associations and other entities about the project?
Andreas: It's positive throughout. It's beautiful. That's why I never stopped doing this project. My idea was to go back to Germany at some point, but now, after almost four years, I don't want to go back anymore because it's just so beautiful.
TPN: Do you want to keep the focus of the project only on Portugal?
Andreas: Yeah, I always get that question and I will. I think at some point I will leave but only temporarily. Now Portugal has become my home, and I don't want to leave anymore.
TPN: How can people support the project?
Andreas: Helping is always like sharing the project. I like to go to schools and raise awareness with the kids because they’re the next generation. We have a very nice new documentary now which is only 25 minutes to inspire people to talk a little bit about the issue. And I think that's a little bit of the future. Also, I want to use these adventures to inspire youngsters to act as well.