An internet challenge is helping clean up the planet

It may seem there is a new viral hashtag every day on social media, but the #trashtag challenge is a trend with a greener purpose — its users are cleaning up the planet. Tens of thousands of people have caught onto the trend over the years.

The challenge is simple: People are meant to take a photo of a location, be it a beach, park or trail, strewn with litter. Then clean the location up and take an "after" photo of their handiwork.

While the trend dates back several years, a March 5 post on Facebook from user Byron Román appears to have breathed new life and directed it toward teenagers. "Here is a new #challenge for all you bored teens," Román posted. "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.” The post now has more than 316,000 shares on Facebook.

Since the post, many people — including teens — have taken up the #trashtag challenge again and started cleaning up areas, then posting images to social media, across Twitter, Instagram and other social platforms. The hashtag has more than 24,000 posts on Instagram, many in the past week.

The trend has garnered steam in the past few days, but the outdoor company UCO Gear appears to have ideated the hashtag in 2015 as part of a larger project, according to a press release. "To keep nature beautiful for everyone to enjoy for decades to come, UCO has launched the UCO #TrashTag Project," the press release states. "The project is a movement that encourages fans and the general public to commit to picking up after ourselves and one another in the wilderness."

The press release said its "people ambassador" Steven Reinhold vowed to gather 100 pieces of trash during a road trip after his receipt from a recent shopping spree inadvertently flew out the window. On the way back from his trip, Reinhold pitched an expanded idea of his initial plan and "the movement began," according to the release.

While those picking up trash have used #trashtag over the years, Román's post — which is aimed directly at teens as opposed to everyone as indicated by UCO gear — has garnered a resurgence of posts. The hashtag also initially encouraged people to pick up trash in the wilderness; now many have taken to picking up trash on roadsides and other areas.

While another trend will likely take over in the coming weeks, this one seems to make the planet a bit cleaner in the meantime.

(Story from CBS.com)