The Estonian-initiated World Cleanup Day raises awareness about cigarette butt pollution

The third World Cleanup Day, engaging millions of people across the globe on 19 September, aims to raise awareness about the devastating effect that waste cigarette butts cause to our environment.

This year, the World Cleanup Day, initiated by the Tallinn-based NGO, Let’s Do It World, draws a particular attention to cigarette butts as this is the most common waste type collected in the cleanup actions organised by the Let’s Do It! civic movement.

“There are six trillion cigarette butts produced each year and 4.5 trillion of them end up in nature – in natural habitats and water bodies,” the organisation said in a statement. “Its effect is devastating on our natural resources – one cigarette filter contains more than 150 extremely poisonous toxins capable of ruining 1,000 litres of water and takes 15 years to disintegrate. Since the cigarette butts are made of plastic, the decaying filters contribute massively to the micro-plastic problem the world faces today.”

A video clip raising awareness of the cigarette butt pollution, released by the World Cleanup Day.

Besides all the other waste that will be collected, Let’s Do It World network plans to gather a billion cigarette butts on World Cleanup Day, on 19 September, to illustrate the problem.

A global movement that started in Estonia

Despite the coronavirus pandemic-imposed restrictions in many countries, the World Cleanup Day 2020 is taking place across the world, in every continent – although the participation numbers are expected to be lower than in previous years.

The first World Cleanup Day took place on 15 September 2018 and united 18 million people across 157 countries and territories for the biggest waste collection day in human history. The 36-hour wave of cleanups began in New Zealand and finished in Hawaii. The second one, on 21 September 2019, involved 21 million people in 180 countries. 

The Let’s Do It! movement started in Estonia in 2008 when 50,000 people came together and cleaned up the entire country in five hours. It has since grown into global operation and engaged tens of millions of environmentally savvy volunteers around the world.

Cover: Volunteers at World Cleanup Day 2019 in Suriname. Photo by World Cleanup Day.

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