The first ever World Cleanup Day, whose roots lie in the Estonian civic movement Let's Do It!, was held on Saturday, 15 September, with an estimated 13 million people across some 150 countries worldwide pitching in to clean up their local areas. Cleanups were postponed in some parts of the world due to inclement weather and other concerns, however, which means that various WCD figures are not yet final.
According to a press release by World Cleanup Day Headquarters, reports on volunteer numbers around the world indicate an estimated total of 13 million participants, with the highest number of volunteers engaged in Indonesia, Pakistan and the US at 3.3, 3 and 1.5 million, respectively. Kyrgyzstan, meanwhile, saw the highest participation rate at 7% of the national population.
Among other government officials, civic leaders and celebrities, the Presidents of Estonia, Kyrgyzstan and Georgia all participated personally in cleanups; President Kersti Kaljulaid took part in a cleanup in Ukraine.
In 40 hours, cleanups were held from Fiji to American Samoa, typically beginning at 10:00 local time. It is yet too early to discuss exact figures regarding total amounts of trash collected, but in organising the event the WCD team took care to ensure that none of the cleaned up waste would remain uncollected.
"We collected the trash, but each country is responsible for what will become of it on its own territory, according to its respective waste management options and culture," explained WCD leader Eva Truuverk. "It was the responsibility of each country captain to work out a system for this, and we recommended following the example set by Estonia according to which landowners would be responsible for waste removal and management."
According to Estonian team captain Raimo Matvere, Estonians were very active participants in WCD, collecting an average of 500 litres of trash per person.
"I really appreciate these people's contributions," he said. "It happened multiple times that we received a call from a cleanup after two hours and were told that they had done everything there, give them another [assignment]."
Events postponed, cancelled due to weather, politics
Cleanups were postponed in parts of Asia due to Typhoon Mangkhut, parts of the US due to Hurricane Florence and parts of the Caribbean by Tropical Storm Isaac. WCD events in several countries were also affected by extreme heat, although cleanups in Bahrain proceeded despite temperatures reaching as high as 46C, and many volunteer groups in Iraq began cleaning as early as 6:00 local time to get ahead of the midday heat.
In Zimbabwe, cleanups were affected by a cholera outbreak centered in Harare, and cleanup efforts were postponed or cancelled in Sudan and Yemen for political reasons.
As a result, it will take some time before any final worldwide numbers can be tallied.
WCD world headquarters staffed by 300 in Tallinn
The world headquarters of the WCD event was located at Tallinnn University, where more than 300 WCD staff members, many of them volunteers, worked for over 24 hours to field calls and emails and answer questions, respond to media queries, write press releases and keep in contact with local cleanup leaders around the world, among other tasks.
The 24-hour live online broadcast was also run on site, with many staff members from ERR and ETV contributing to the effort, including all three members of the ERR News team.
For more information about World Cleanup Day, click here.
Editor: Aili Vahtla