Litter-collecting hiker hits 500th ‘trash hike’ this weekend


AUSTIN (KXAN) — An Austin woman who collects litter along central Texas trails and streets hits a milestone on Saturday, when she’ll log her 500th “trash hike” in a year and a half.

Julie Sondecker started her mission in May 2017 after a trip to the Barton Creek Greenbelt.

“Basically just found a bunch of trash, and it just kind of got me fired up,” Sondecker said. “It really irritated me to find so much trash in one of my favorite places.”

The hiker talked to KXAN Thursday, completing her 499th hike around Lady Bird Lake, reusable mesh trash bag in hand.

That day last year, she decided to walk and collect trash every day for a year. After her 365th hike in a row, she just kept going. The 500 garbage collections haven’t all been consecutive since she hit her first goal — she’s earned a day off from time to time — but Sondecker kept track of her progress through an Instagram account where she posts a picture of her pick-up from every hike.

Sondecker likes to stage the photos of her bag of garbage surrounded by something beautiful to drive home the point of what she’s doing.

“It just shows, like, this does not belong here,” she said. “It’s so easy to understand the problem when you see a photo like that.”

She collects trash anywhere she happens to see it — along trails, city streets and in neighborhoods. She even takes her bag on vacation with her, picking up trash in New Orleans, Florida, Chicago, and Thailand.

“Anywhere that there’s trash, I’m more than happy to help pick it up,” she said.

At an average of five pounds of trash per hike, she estimates, conservatively, that she’s cleared 2,500 pounds of litter.

While she doesn’t plan to set any more numerical goals for herself in the new year, she doesn’t plan to stop cleaning up Austin and the world. Sondecker said she instead wants to focus on encouraging others to care more about keeping their communities clean, a role she’ll be able to take on as a new board member for Keep Austin Beautiful in 2019.

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