Lonely Planet Writer

Will you be joining the World Cleanup Day this weekend?

The ‘Clean Up’ movement has gone global with over 150 countries joining in a worldwide community-led movement to clean up the world’s litter in a single day: Saturday 15 September 2018.

World Cleanup Day Ukraine. Photo by: Let’s Do It! World

With 20 million people expected to join in locally run events, the day is inspired by Clean Up Australia Day and amplified by Estonia’s  World Cleanup Day.

“A powerful ‘green wave’ of cleanups will start in New Zealand and end 36 hours later in Hawaii, with millions of people working towards one goal: a clean and healthy planet,” explains Let’s Do It! World, the organisation behind the global day.

Way back in 1989 a couple of keen Australian environmentalists, Ian Kiernan and Kim McKay, started a grassroots day of action now known Down Under as ‘Clean Up Australia’ day, after Kiernan and his friends, saw the amount of plastic in Sydney Harbour.

On Sunday 8 January 1989 40,000 volunteers turned up to help them collect over 5000 tonnes of trash.

From that seed, an annual get-together of local communities across Australia has been pulling together to tackle litter, clean waterways, and find solutions to climate change.

Beach clean up in Azerbaijan
Volunteers clean up a beach in Baku, Azerbaijan. Photo by: Let’s Do It! World

On the other side of the globe, the Let’s Do It! World organisation was born in Estonia in the summer of 2007, when a group of nature enthusiasts saw the amount of trash being dumped in the country’s once pristine forests. Tyres, carpets, old chairs and bed frames had turned nature reserves into a giant “prügikast” – a trash bin.

These grassroots movements inspired people worldwide to follow suit with the same ambitious ‘one country, one day’ formula.

But ‘what happens after 15 September to keep the country beautiful?’  you may ask.

Millions of volunteers uniting across 150 countries is an effort that needs to be matched with more sustainable, long-term solutions from business and governments, not just the community.

Clean Up Day in Lithuania
A diver removes trash from a river in Lithuania. Photo by: Let’s Do It! World

“Simply stopping the blood spilling out will not heal the wound,” said Anneli Ohvril, the head of the managing board of the Let’s do it!.

“With cleanups, we aim to draw attention to littering, trash blindness and general mismanagement of waste. Cleanups are not meant to replace regular waste management. Civic action must be followed up by effective waste management reforms, with waste collection improvements to be established everywhere. We also need to look at what we are throwing away – it’s not waste until it’s wasted. We should see that we are throwing away resources and recognise their potential again,” added Ohvril.

Reducing your waste is the best place to start. Travellers: are you ready to take the plastic-free travel pledge?