North Carolina man picks up over 8 million pieces of trash, wins hearts on TikTok


He didn’t make this mess, but he’s cleaning it up.

One man in North Carolina is creating the change he wants to see in the world by cleaning up trash across the Tar Heel State. The environmentalist has picked up over 8 million pieces of litter to date, drawing a following on TikTok and advocating for a cleaner world.

Every day is Earth Day for Daniel Toben, who calls trash cleanup a hobby he’s enjoyed for the last decade. The 32-year-old man from Chapel Hill started cleaning up litter while studying at North Carolina State University and has never looked back, according to his website. To date, WNCN reports that he’s picked up over 8 million pieces of trash from the great outdoors, filling 8,300 bags.

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“When I was a student at N.C. State, I found that cleaning up this one stream was kind of like my sanctuary space,” he told the outlet. “I could go there and feel my best while also making a difference.”

Toben loves the environment, and is raising awareness about the realities of pollution on his popular TikTok page, where he’s amassed a following of 375,000. In the quick clips, Toben will often explain where he is and what the cleanup mission is, recording himself and posting a sped-up montage of the pickup to upbeat music, in a satisfying sight

Though he’s described the work as “super meaningful,” he acknowledged it can be exhausting.

“Dude it literally never ends,” he said in a recent video. “I clean up trash on the sides of roads like all the time, and the same roads get dirty. I cleaned up this road like last week.”

“So, let’s clean it up again,” he said, and got to work.

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In a now-viral video viewed over 2.4 million times, Toben waded into a stream in overalls and boots, loading a deluge of litter into a canoe, piece by piece. TikTokers praised his thoughtful care, but agreed the sheer magnitude of trash was heartbreaking.

“This is actually sad to watch. People are so mean to the world!” one wrote. “Thank you.”

“That’s insane!!!” another exclaimed.

“I wish I live there to go and help you,” one offered.

“You’re a real hero for humanity and the planet,” one said, and other called him “the man.”

Fans have been so touched by commitment to a cleaner world, Toben said they recently sent him $4,000 for cleaning supplies.

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“I’ve done it so much now that it’s part of my personality,” he told WNCN of the crusade. “Anyone who has done as a hobby long enough it kind of becomes ingrained in them.”

Now, Toben’s pitching in with the North Carolina Department of Transportation’s annual cleanup, which runs through the weekend. For anyone inspired to think global and act local, he’s also shared tips for organizing your own litter cleanup on his Earth Stewards website.



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