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The Rocky Mountain Collegian

The Student News Site of Colorado State University

The Rocky Mountain Collegian

The Student News Site of Colorado State University

The Rocky Mountain Collegian

FoCo Trash Mob protests Trader Joe’s plastic use


(Graphic illustration by Charlie Cohen | The Collegian)

Piper Russell, News Editor

Highly organized protest may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you hear “trash mob,” but for a group of recycling volunteers in Fort Collins, it’s the new method of protesting single-use plastics.

On July 23, the FoCo Trash Mob held a trash mob at Trader Joe’s as part of a national Plastic Take-Back event. The event received publicity through Beyond Plastics, a national organization. 


Maureen McCarthy, who has worked for the Larimer County Landfill and the City of Fort Collins Waste Reduction and Recycling area, said a group of about 20 people participated in the trash mob, bringing plastic to the entrance of Trader Joe’s.

McCarthy came up with the idea to do a sort of flash mob but with an environmental purpose. McCarthy and Kim Miller, a member of the organization, worked on developing the event.

I like working with the Trash Mob folks because we all have the same desire to do something to end single-use plastics,” Miller wrote in an email to The Collegian. “And it feels really good to meet new people at our events who are as passionate as we are.”

“I want companies to quit using fossil fuels to make plastic packaging that we use once and throw away. Plastics are harming our bodies, air and water, and use of fossil fuels for single-use plastics is a waste.” -Kim Miller, FoCo Trash Mob member

According to Beyond Plastics’ website, other local groups and affiliates in California; Washington, D.C.; Massachusetts; New York and Washington also hosted Plastic Take-Backs at Trader Joe’s.

McCarthy said the idea was originally put out there by Bea Johnson, author of the book “Zero Waste Home.” According to McCarthy, Johnson also coined the term “active discard,” which refers to the idea of sending nonrecyclable plastic back with a message.

“That’s what we do on a bigger scale: Rather than just one person doing it, we try to do a concentrated effort to send the same item to the same manufacturer during the same time frame with a really well-researched letter,” McCarthy said.

According to an email from the FoCo Trash Mob, as well as sending the trash back, the mob delivered a letter addressed to Dan Bane, CEO of Trader Joe’s. The letter included an outline of why single-use plastics should be reduced and listed steps they’d like Trader Joe’s to take to reduce plastic use.

“We’re not just saying, ‘Oh, here’s your trash back;’ we’re also mentioning alternatives that they could use,” McCarthy said.

In her email, Miller wrote about her reasons for participating in the trash mob.


I’m involved in FoCo Trash Mob to do something about plastic pollution and climate change,” Miller wrote. “I want companies to quit using fossil fuels to make plastic packaging that we use once and throw away. Plastics are harming our bodies, air and water, and use of fossil fuels for single-use plastics is a waste.”

According to McCarthy, the FoCo Trash Mob is made up of seven members, all from different backgrounds. McCarthy said they are a “highly educated and very diverse group.”

The FoCo Trash Mob has also worked with other national organizations — including Break Free From Plastic and Upstream USA — and done other trash-back events. According to Miller, in the past year, FoCo Trash Mob participated in an event that sent Lay’s chip bags back and had 100 people sign their Hershey’s petition on Earth Day. They also sent candy wrappers to the CEO of Hershey’s.

According to Miller, one of the biggest challenges has been getting the word out and mobilizing people. McCarthy has worked to connect with other groups. Miller also said their members have given talks, tabled at events and collected trash to take to events. Miller wrote the FoCo Trash Mob makes it “easy for people to take action against single-use plastic.”

Information on how to get involved can be found on the FoCo Trash Mob website.

Reach Piper Russell at or on Twitter @PiperRussell10.

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About the Writer
Photo of Piper Russell
Piper Russell, News Editor

Piper Russell is one of The Collegian’s news editors this year and is thrilled to be working in the role. She started as a news reporter her sophomore...

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