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Final numbers: 17 million from 158 countries take part in World Cleanup Day

World Cleanup Day volunteers. 15 September 2018.
World Cleanup Day volunteers. 15 September 2018. Source: WCD

A total of 17 million people from 158 countries and territories around the world took part in the first ever World Cleanup Day, the world's largest coordinated civic clean-up event whose roots go back a decade in Estonia.

According to final figures, 17 million people from 158 countries and territories took part in the initiative, officially held on 15 September. The cleanup event was also held in 11 countries that had to postpone their cleanups due to weather-related or political challenges on the day of the event itself, organisers said on Friday. Six tropical cyclones, for example, affected cleanup plans in more than 15 countries in different parts of the world.

The latest figures show that some 7.6 million people took part in the cleanup in Indonesia, 3.7 million in Sweden, 3 million in Pakistan, 2.3 million in Ukraine, 2 million in Bulgaria, 1.7 million in the US, 1.6 million each in Lavia and Lithuania, and 1.3 million in Romania.

Eva Truuverk, head of the World Cleanup Day management board, said that more important than these figures is the fact that, thanks to this cleanup event, as well as other similar initiatives, people have begun asking themselves whether it is really wise to use things for mere seconds.

"Using single-use plastic food and drink containers, bags, cotton buds and other similar items is too big a waste of resources," Truuverk said. "When a single-use item like this ends up in the environment instead of a trash can, it becomes pollution which finds its way back to our dining table in the form of microplastics. It is more than evident that all of humankind must critically review their consumption habits, because we have no Planet B."

She said that organisers of the event believe that World Cleanup Day provided a positive impetus for changing habits, and all of the millions of people who turned up to clean up their countries will become new champions of solving the global waste issue as well as role models who will start shaping the attitudes and behaviour of many others in turn in the future.

WCD was propelled by the civic movement Let's Do It!, whose roots are Estonian and which has been initiating cleanup actions across 169 countries over the past decade. Over the years, more than 36 million volunteers have taken part. 

Next steps: 'Keep It Clean'

Led by Enzo Favoino, a group of renowned researchers and experts has been working under the wing of the movement to draw up a clear set of suggestions, titled the Keep It Clean Plan, which was released on 16 September. The plan embeds the principles of the "zero waste" strategy and concludes with recommended actions for businesses, governments, citizens and NGOs to implement specific steps to deal with the global mismanaged waste crisis. 

The Let's Do It! movement is looking to work in cooperation with country and community leaders, as well as other partners, to develop further country-based roadmaps toward better waste management systems and policies, thus engaging public and private sectors as well as local communities.

Further collaborative steps based on the Keep It Clean Plan will be decided together with Let's Do It! country leaders at the 8th annual Clean World Conference to be held in Tallinn on 24-27 January 2019.

On 9 October, UNESCO awarded WCD and its Keep It Clean Plan with the UNESCO-Japan Prize on Education for Sustainable Development.

The Let's Do It! World movement can trace its roots back to Estonia in 2008, when approximately 50,000 volunteers participated in a one-day coordinated, country-wide cleanup. Technology created by former Skype chief architecht and Starship Technologies co-founder Ahti Heinla allowed the organising team to map more than 10,000 waste points prior to the cleanup and coordinate the work of 50,000 volunteers. In five hours, they collected more than 10,000 tonnes of mismanaged waste from the environment and public areas.


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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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