Millions sign up across the world for Saturday's World Cleanup Day ({{contentCtrl.commentsTotal}})

Prime Minister Jüri Ratas taking part in last year's WCD.
Prime Minister Jüri Ratas taking part in last year's WCD. Source: World Cleanup Day

Millions of volunteers have signed up for this Saturday's World Cleanup Day (WCD) initiative, whose organization center is in Estonia, despite coronavirus regulations.

WCD brings volunteers worldwide together, both ordinary people and leaders, including Estonian Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Center), taking part for the third year in a row.

"Today, in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, we have had to be even more concerned about the future of our home – a healthy and clean Earth," Ratas said via a WCD press release.

"The mismanaged waste problem has worsened globally because of the pandemic. To join forces for the clean world is more important than ever."

WCD lasts a full revolution of the earth, starting Friday evening Estonian time, or Saturday morning in Australia, and ending 24 hours later in Hawaii.

This year's focus is on the problem of discarded cigarette butts, which are non-biodegradable, toxic, yet extremely common form of waste.

WCD aims to collect one billion cigarette ends worldwide, or around one for every eight people on the globe.

The figure also corresponds to the number of cigarettes smoked annually in the Scandinavian countries alone; around 6 trillion cigarette ends are produced each year (about two per person, per day - ed.), with over two-thirds of these ended up discarded in the natural environment, WCD says.

The filters contain major plastic pollutant contributing to the global microplastic problem, as well as over 150 poisonous toxins which can potentially spoil up to 1,000 liters of water.

WCD's organizing body, Let's Do it World, says that the pandemic has made logistics more complicated than ever before.

"Organizing and holding the event amid a pandemic is a challenge," said Let's Do It World boss Heidi Solba.

"But the increasing plastic waste problem can no longer be pushed aside. In Europe especially, we may not realize that the smallest waste plays an important role in pollution. For instance, one of the biggest sources of the microplastic problem prevalent in world seas are cigarette butts washed into the oceans via storm water," she said. 

A local initiative in Estonia has also drawn attention to this problem.

Anneli Ohvril, Executive Director of Let's Do It World, added that individual cleanups are best, urging those taking part worldwide to pay attention to local coronavirus regulations, and even undertake a digital cleanup of files on their devices at home (which can prolong the equipments' life and thus cut down on waste). Options for engaging in WCD beyond Saturday itself and into next week are also possible.

WCD, which started over a decade ago in Estonia as "Teeme ära", is the largest single peacetime civic action combating waste, organizers say.

Last year's pre-coronavirus WCD involved 21.2 million people in most of the world's countries.

WCD will also make up the opening event for UN's Sustainable Development Goals Action Week, lasting September 18-26.

Around 17,000 people, the bulk of them young people, have signed up for WCD in Estonia alone; many people take part on the day without having registered in advance.

WCD partners with the African Union, AIESEC, Earth Day Network, Fridays for Future, Good Deeds Day, JCI, United Nations, UNESCO, and many other bodies. 

The WCD site is here.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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