“Trash Girl”


When I tell friends who are unfamiliar with the waste universe that I’m the editor of MSW Management, most of them ask, “What does MSW stand for?” Of course I would answer, municipal solid waste, and go on to explain that…

“Trash?” the friend would interrupt in a pious and ignorant manner.

Yes, trash. But what most people don’t realize is that there are entire industries dedicated to…

“Do you have to go to the dump to find stories?” the friend would snicker.

The teasing doesn’t bother me because number one, I’m an adult, and two, I realize the importance of waste management in civil society.

I’m not so sure I would be as stoic and confident when I was 12 years old.

Nadia Sparkes is 12 years old. She lives in a village called Hellesdon northeast of London in the UK. Bullies at her school call her “Trash Girl.” They call her that because when she rides her bicycle to and from school, she picks up trash on the 2-mile route using the basket on her bike. When bullying her, they tell her it’s her job to pick up their garbage.

This is what she told her local newspaper, the Eastern Daily Press:

“I’m not going to stop doing the right thing because of them, and if they are going to call me Trash Girl, they can say it with respect. I’m doing something to protect the world they also live in. It’s everyone’s job. We are all responsible for keeping this world safe, instead of believing that it’s always someone else’s job.”

Instead of shrinking in the moment, Nadia is stepping up. She and her family created a Facebook page called “Team Trash Girl” where she’s getting a lot of support from the community. She was invited to a private screening of a short film called “Litterbugs” which is a short film about, coincidentally, a bullied young girl who makes flying mechanical “bugs” out of litter.

In fact, she’s garnered so much attention that it inspired a production company to turn her into a superhero.

Photo by Creative Nation

I know that usually we tend to go about our business in drone-like fashion, getting done what needs to be done. We know we’re not superheroes. We won’t get the kind of positive reinforcement bestowed upon a bullied 12-year-old girl. But those of you in the business of waste management are to be admired.  

Nadia Sparkes is a good reminder for all of us of the high levels of humanity and caring (not to mention professionalism and expertise) it takes to have passion for our industry. There are a lot of issues to deal with, from the China Waste Ban to safety to new technologies. It will take innovation, talent, and character to get the job done. Maybe we are superheroes.

Should we start the #imtrashgirl?   MSW_bug_web

  • Diane.

    Nadia come join us at SCS Engineers after graduation! Thanks for your dedication and strength of character.

  • Deana.

    Wonderful story! Also the attention brought to the problem, and superhero status may well help sensitize adults and kids so they drop less litter.

  • Jack Higgins.

    You may want to highlight Shaw Carpeting, they recycle 100% of their product and will come and collect their old carpet when you decided to replace it; they do this whether you are installing their product as the replacement or not. You just have to reach out. Having the original producer of product be the recycling firm would be a excellent way to proceed for all products. Likely not entirely feasible but if the design has the recycling task in mind when engineering a product it may prove to offer re-use scenarios that we do not normally start with.


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