This Woman Rummages Through Trash at Night to Catch Out Wasteful Companies

Walking through a city at night to rummage through garbage is not a look one would traditionally associate with a social media influencer.

However, Anna Sacks has more than 302,600 followers on TikTok from doing just that.

The flame-haired New Yorker is passionate about tackling overconsumption and uses the app to share videos of herself sifting through corporate waste to expose the sheer volume of items that are needlessly sent to landfill.

The environmental activist, known on the app as The Trashwalker, has filmed hauls including bags of unopened candy bars, piles of clothes and designer sunglasses, and even a dumpster full of stylish office chairs.

But Sacks wasn't always such an eco-warrior, having worked at an investment bank until 2016.

She describes to Newsweek how the all-work no-play culture left her feeling "a bit burnt out" and so she quit to enroll in a Jewish farming fellowship.

It was here that she learned about composting, which showed her an "alternative way to live" and "really sparked" her "interest in waste."

This week, Sacks went viral with her video, which can be watched here, calling out fashion brand Coach for deliberately destroying unsold or returned merchandise.

She held up a selection of slashed bags that were found in the garbage outside of a shopping mall and it was viewed more than 2.8 million times.

In response to the inevitable backlash the brand, that preached sustainability on its website, announced that it has now "ceased destroying in-store returns of damaged and unsalable goods."

However, for Sacks this is not good enough. She explains that while it is "a starting point" Coach still "qualified the statement so it only applies to in-store returns, that doesn't mean they're going to stop destroying all merchandise."

The 30-year-old is firm in her mission and the tactic of exposing brands on social media is one that seems to work. It has also resulted in talks with companies about their waste policies, including Flying Tiger, Joann Fabrics and CVS pharmacies.

The latter prompted her to start a petition, which has nearly 450,000 signatures, urging the drug store chain to "donate, don't dump" items.

This was due to her discoveries of unopened food, diapers and grooming products in their trash which only had slight damage to outer packaging.

Sacks believes that that "the ultimate thing is to produce less. And that's an uncomfortable conversation, of shifting business models and shifting metrics by which businesses measure success."

Although the U.S. represents only 4 percent of the global population, it produces 12 percent of the world's municipal solid waste, and Sacks explains that there should be more transparency and regulation surrounding waste disposal.

"That's why I thought Coach, in particular, would be a good target because they are a publicly traded company, and yet it [the amount of items they destroy] is not disclosed anywhere," she reveals.

"So I do think that that FFC should require more disclosures."

Sacks is working on a coalition to adjust some of the tax codes related to this corporate excess which will stop the tax deduction for donating items from being capped at 25 percent.

Although these policies are yet to come to fruition, companies should still be wary about what they deem garbage.

After all, one corporation's trash could be another influencer's treasure.

Anna Sacks
Anna Sacks, aka The Trashwalker, sifts through corporate waste to see what companies are throwing away. Anna Sacks/Instagram