World Cleanup Day aims to activate five per cent of the Earth’s population

The Estonian-initiated World Cleanup Day aims to engage millions of volunteers in 190 countries – five per cent of the Earth’s population – for the global cleanup on 17 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 across the globe 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 cleanup days in 2020 and 2021 were affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and hence, had less participants – but still engaged 11 million volunteers in 2020 and 8.5 million last year.

In Iran, the campaign’s main focus in 2020 was on the cigarette butt waste as this is a big issue in the country. Photo by World Cleanup Day.

Anneli Ohvril, the executive director of Let’s Do It World, the organiser of the global initiative, said that after a couple of years of COVID restrictions, the movement is “all ready to return as a global community to connect and care for the planet in bigger numbers than ever”.

Joining hands with Earthday

This year, the Tallinn-based organisation has joined hands with another major environmental movement – the Washington, D.C.-based Earthday that traces its roots all the way back to 1970. Together, the two networks aim to engage volunteers in 190 countries, with the ultimate goal of activating five per cent of the population. 

“Our mission is to activate 5% of the world’s population on this day – this is a scientifically proven number that would propel forward the worldwide shift towards conscious care and subsequently, circular economy,” Ohvril said in a statement.

“World Cleanup Day is not just about cleaning our streets, forests and beaches from all the plastic and other trash that is polluting the planet in ever-increasing quantities. It’s about going beyond that and kick-starting the shift within us, our homes, communities, governments and businesses. ‘Waste-free’ could easily be the new normal if we direct our attention to it and design it into all our systems from the start,” she added.

World Cleanup Day 2020 action in Ghana.

The patron of World Cleanup Day is Ursual von der Leyen, the European Commission’s president. “I am very proud to be the patron of World Cleanup Day. We need to change the way we treat our planet, be more mindful of its resources and preserve its biodiversity. Everyone and anyone can contribute to this,” she said in a statement.

Read also: Less blah blah blah and more action – the local World Cleanup Day leaders share their experiences

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