Waste started to interest me during the COVID-19 crisis. We have collected more than 2,500 bags, says Jaroslav from Trash Heroes Košice

The situation regarding COVID-19 and the subsequent crisis has brought many unexpected solutions and results. Entrepreneurs have been looking for ways to survive, the cultural sector has suffered tremendously, home offices have become a common form of telework. However, in certain professions, the crisis has not had such a profound effect as in the case of delivery staff. One of the examples is Jaroslav Stančák, whose time in open spaces led to the mass collection of waste on the outskirts and in the vicinity of Košice. Today, he is the main face of the civic association Trash Heroes Košice and regularly motivates the city residents to selfless public waste collections via their activities. And according to his own calculations, more than 2,500 bags have already passed through the trunk of his car.

How much waste do Slovaks produce per year?

According to the information portal of the Ministry of the Environment of the Slovak Republic, Enviroportál, in 2019 Slovaks produced an average of 435 kg of general waste per person. In 2018, the general waste production was surprisingly the lowest in the Košice region, at 328.8 kg per person. In addition, Slovakia recorded a total production of more than 13 million tons of waste, including general waste, which makes up a 10% increase compared to 2017. Consumption era, therefore, brings a natural increase in waste production, yet still the lack of environmental awareness results in neglected and polluted neighbourhoods and centres of villages, cities and nature. Jaroslav Stančák from the Nad jazerom neighbourhood decided to take action into his own hands. According to him, the opportunity arose during the first wave of the coronavirus, when he spent most of his free time outdoors.

“It started out quite ordinary, it doesn’t have any long story behind it. Simply put – I was just bothered by all the mess. My friends and I noticed that we didn’t even have a place to sit down in our neighbourhood. We moved from one place to another and there was garbage everywhere, whether to a greater or lesser extent. I took the bags out of the car and we picked it up.”

“No one taught me how to collect rubbish, I felt it was the right thing to do.

Jaroslav claims that his relationship to the environment and his current hobby has not started out during his upbringing or education at school, but, on the contrary, while spending his childhood in the countryside. “No one had to teach me to collect the garbage or not throw it away in nature. It was nature who made me have this attitude and motivation to care. It’s a beautiful feeling when everything is clean and neat around me.”

In the past, Jaroslav spent some time living abroad, specifically in the United Kingdom, where he became familiar with the strong emphasis on the aesthetic environment. Thinking about the cleanliness of the outdoor areas has been on his for some time, but he started to with the garbage collection fully in March 2020. “I published what and where we were picking up trash during those first days on my Facebook profile. It had a strong response and I received positive feedback. After a short time, together with my friends, we decided to establish the civic association Trash Heroes Košice and created our own fan page. It is not an activity to gain money from and not everyone who decides to meet with us is able to do it in the long run. However, I respect every single person who collects trash, even if only for one day or one hour. It matters and brings immediate results.”

I try to motivate others by my own example, I go to collect trash, for example, in the morning before work. There is a very simple solution to the whole environmental problem – it is enough not to throw waste where it does not belong.

Good deed = 10 bags

After the founding of the civic association Trash Heroes Košice, several public events were organized to pick up trash, the first of which took place at the popular Bukovec water reservoir. Jaroslav mentions that the number of participants reached 25, and even the mayor of the adjacent village came to the meeting. Later, the events were also held in Veľká Ida and Košice neighbourhoods Terasa or KVP. According to the founder of the association, there are many reasons why people decide to come to pick up garbage: “Of course, people are primarily interested in our environment, but often they also want to fix something, do a good deed, make up for the bad ones they did in their personal lives. In reality, however, the reason does not matter, the effect is the same. The goal is important. We may not feel how the trash picking may affect us now or in the years to come, but I firmly believe that our children and the next generation will. I am convinced that it will contribute to their better health.”

Cartoon programs about infested forests

According to Jaroslav Stančák, the door to the civic association Trash Heroes Košice is open to every good person who shows that his/her heart is in the right place, and not only in front of the members of the association. He ends the interview with regard to the young generation and children. “I would like to participate in the creation of a cartoon program for children, ideally a fairytale, about the life of animals in a forest infested with garbage. I believe that we must show children the other side of the coin side – the impact of the trash not only on the environment but also on the animals themselves. Only when our children adopt a new perspective and thinking will a breakthrough come. Recently, I also had the idea: ‘So close to people and so far from a man  – trash’. I want to strive to model the view of the environment among the youngest. Currently, I’m still looking for ways to do that.”

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