For three years, Muntasir Mamun worked towards one goal and one dream: Trash Maniacs. For 66 days, this 30-year-old engineer from Bangladesh rode across the USA on a tandem bike with his colleague Mohammad Ujjal, to measure and collect the amount of plastic and other waste they came across. Equipped with a smartphone application to track and count litter, they rode for 5500 km, through 40 cities and 12 states, starting in Seattle and finishing in Washington, D.C. With this journey they hoped to raise awareness on climate change and the impact of plastic and trash on the environment, for the benefit of their home country and the rest of the world.
Why? Muntasir clarifies: "The USA have the highest consumption of plastic based products and the largest consumer market for the bottled water in the world. And Bangladesh is the most vulnerable nation in the world, due to global climate change. A large number of people are displacing their homes from one place to another, as a result of the regular environmental disasters. In Dhaka- the capital- nearly 20 million people are living in only 304km, and this number is growing every day."
Growing up in a country where millions are affected by climate change has made Muntasir aware of the environmental problems the world is facing and how urgent it is to take a stand: "Dhaka is an example of what is going to happen in the future in many other countries: flooding, storm-surge, shoreline erosion, degradation of agricultural land, cyclones..."
And so, even though it took him three years to save the necessary money and his visa request for the US was rejected three times, Muntasir didnt give up on his journey to raise awareness for the change the world desperately needs. For 66 days he rode his tandem bike through the country with his colleague, camping along the way and only sleeping at motels or hostels for a very few times, measuring the plastic that is not recycled and other debris they came across. After 40 days, they both ran out of money, and had to rely on friends for shelter and on donations of food and other supplies. But in the end, it paid off. Trash Maniacs won the C4C Special Prize in the Voices4Climate competition, and Muntasir was declared International Climate Leader, by The Climate Reality Project. "This prize helped me a lot in making my voice stronger about this issue".
"Everything comes along with a price. Climate change is the result of our extravagant lifestyle, and if we dont solve this problem, poverty will never be eliminated". For this reason, Muntasir is planning to ride Trash Maniacs II next summer, from Alaska to Toronto, spreading his message along the way. "I want to keep this campaign in other countries where the rate of consumption is higher than their basic needs. My plan is to reach the global scale. This is a common ground where everyone can participate and contribute without any geographical boarder. We just have to start from home: one step at a time, all together".