The Estonian-initiated World Cleanup Day engages millions of people across the world on 18 September.
The World Cleanup Day traces its roots back to 2008, when 50,000 people came together in Estonia and cleaned up the entire country in five hours. The citizen movement, called Let’s Do It! then grew into global operation and engaged tens of millions of environmentally savvy volunteers around the world.
In 2018, the movement organised the first World Cleanup Day – with an aim to engage as many people as possible for the biggest waste collection day in human history.
The first global cleanup day, on 15 September 2018, united 18 million people across 157 countries. The second one, on 21 September 2019, involved 21 million people in 180 countries. The last year’s cleanup day, held on 19 September 2020, was affected by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and hence, had less participants – but it still engaged 11 million people in 166 countries.
From Fiji to Hawaii
This year, people from up to 180 countries have pledged to participate in the cleanup day that starts in Fiji and ends in Hawaii.
“Today, despite the corona pandemic influencing the way we act, people have shown that they are deeply invested in the future of our home – we want a healthy and clean Earth. The mismanaged waste problem has worsened globally because of pandemics,” Heidi Solba, the head of global network of Let’s Do It World, the coordinator of World Cleanup Day events, said in a statement.
“Organising and holding World Cleanup Day amidst a pandemic is a challenge. But the increasing plastic waste problem can no longer be pushed aside,” she added, inviting everyone to join the cleanup campaign.
Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, will be the patron of this year’s World Cleanup Day.
Digital cleanup as an alternative
As many countries have strict COVID-19 restrictions in place, the movement recommends people rather go to individual cleanups. “We also ask everyone to comply with the local government’s guidelines for group gatherings,” Anneli Ohvril, the executive director of Let’s Do It World, said in a statement.
“As an option, people in high-risk communities or who feel unwell can participate by doing a digital cleanup instead. This means deleting all unnecessary files from our digital devices. It extends the lifespan of our gadgets and decreases CO2 waste,” Ohvril added.
Cover: World Cleanup Day 2020 action in Ghana. Photo by World Cleanup Day.