Dillon Mendes, Co-Founder of Pickwaste


“If you commit to a small consistent action, it will lead to a massive impact.”

Dillon Mendes, co-founder of PickWaste entrusts in this theory wholeheartedly. Studying Accounting, Finance and Environmental Studies at the University of Waterloo, Dillon also oversees and participates in PickWaste - an initiative committed to making a difference.

The idea came to Dillon in his Grade 12 year where he realized he wanted to make a difference in the community but did not know how he would go about it. He knew he had an interest in the environment but wondered how he could push it further. One day, while driving home from school, Dillon saw his friend on the side of the road picking up trash. He pulled over, asked him what he was doing and his friend replied with what he learnt in class that day, “If you commit to a small consistent action, it will lead to a massive impact.”

Dillon’s interest spurred. He went home and began researching famous figures, analyzing their lives and how they made a difference. These were people who lived in different times with different problems. His conclusion? They all took small consistent actions towards the attainment of their goals. It was proven time and time again.

He gave a call to his friend, after deciding he wanted to turn this into a movement, and headed to the beach to pick up trash. They ran into an older gentleman who was overcome with emotion, watching these young men pick up trash instead of being the ones who threw it.

Dillon recalls asking why the older gentleman was so upset. He says,

“Trash wasn’t the issue, maybe at face value it is but if you look a little deeper, the issue is the mentality. The mentality of individuals in our society...what’s one plastic bottle, what’s one coffee cup, what’s one cigarette butt? If everyone has that mentality, it leads to these objects being the most littered objects in the world. They always think that one small action is irrelevant, but that’s the biggest lie I’ve ever heard.

From there, PickWaste was born and carried out each week. Currently, PickWaste hosts weekly cleanups, speaking engagements and corporate social events. Weekly cleanups are scheduled in various cities, where volunteers spend an hour every week picking up waste. In the City of Pickering alone, over 750 bags of trash have been collected from July 1st, 2017.

Dillon tells us the importance of amplifying our voice and going after opportunities to inspire those around us.

When asked if he saw himself getting into speaking positions before all this, he says,

“Honestly no...There’s a bigger message to this. We can inspire youth, we can inspire individuals based off of this theory, based off of our own actions. Our intention was just [to] pick up trash and see where it goes. Pretty soon, we thought we need volunteers, we need more. What if we could get the whole community involved? The main thing we thought about was speaking...We spoke in school, why don’t we use that one attribute we have and use that to our benefit, to market what we’re doing.”

Dillon took the initiative to speak at his church, old high school and from there other speaking engagements popped up.

We asked, “Any moment, did you think we want to make an impact but it doesn’t seem like we’re doing anything or it’s small scale? What about self-doubt or your drive to keep going?”

He didn’t hesitate when he told us,

“100%. Accountability. If you are not passionate about what we’re doing, you wouldn’t have gone out when it was raining, or snowing…If we truly entrust in this theory, if we entrust that these figures in history made massive change by committing to a small action, we should follow the same path.”

Dillon speaks highly of his co-founder Sam Demma and the importance of keeping each other accountable.

He recalls,

The most struggling factor for a startup is just getting started. I think building a website, building a presence on social media, and that needs to be done consistently right from the get go. It was really good to have someone knocking that out of the park, very consistently in the beginning, so now we have more of a brand reputation that we have heard about.”

For those who struggle with the idea of starting, we asked

“What advice do you have for people who have that hesitation to start something?”

He reminds us,

“Taking the first step. Be comfortable, being uncomfortable. As cliche as it sounds, never to look at a project as a staircase, rather just one step at a time. Having an end goal in mind that’s very realistic.”

Dillon also stresses importance on networking. His advice? Reach out! Go to those networking events, see what resources are available and take initiative.

“Networking is huge! Reaching out and being able to present yourself in a way that is approachable, that is value-driven...After our first cleanup, we went to the City of Pickering and said “We’re two kids who wanna clean up the city for free, what are the resources that you can provide us?”

As a student and co-founder of an organization, busy in an understatement. We asked, “How do you manage balancing school and PickWaste at the same time?

“Personally speaking, I have not mastered this 100%. I definitely struggle on the day-to-day basis of it. A big thing that’s helped, looking from last year to this year was prioritizing. Really making constant decisions on what needs to get done today, and making that the first thing I want to do.

Balancing is key. Dillon acknowledges,

“If you only focus on your initiative, or if you only focus on school. It’s going to sacrifice the other initiative or your grades...As hard as it is to do, try to find a balance...A lot of the times, I don’t get things done. During the day, I set out tasks and I don’t accomplish all of them. But the ones I accomplish are priorities.That’s why I put them at the beginning.”

Despite time-management and balancing, challenges are inevitable. Dillon recalls a time where they failed in creating a team in Scarborough. He reflects on overcoming these obstacles.

Just be patient. There’s no need to rush anything. We’re going to have a lot of time to expand the initiative, but if we’re not concrete in the cities we are originally in, it’s not going to pan out. We want to set a strong foundation.”

Patience and reflecting on why you started helps to keep the fire going. Dillon says,

“Always reflecting why you started and why you began, what you begin is definitely one of the most important things I’ve felt as a founder. There’s so much external forces and external communication that occurs in our lifestyle that can really cloud our mind, cloud your brain, cloud your vision...looking where you started can clear that vision right up.”

Final advice from PickWaste’s co-founder?

“The biggest lie that we’ve ever been taught, told, or heard is that one small action is too irrelevant. One group of people can never change the world, when the matter of fact is, it’s the only thing that’s ever changed the world in history... Put yourself out there, go to these events, go on social media and do your own research and just start.”

To learn more about PickWaste, their initiatives and the team check them out below!

Pickwaste // @pickwaste

Dillon Mendes // @dillon_mendes

Sam Demma // @sam_demma


Written By: Amanda Monisha

David Luong