More than 20 million people joined World Cleanup Day 2019

Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Centre) participating in World Cleanup Day. Sept. 21, 2019.
Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Centre) participating in World Cleanup Day. Sept. 21, 2019. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

Around 20 million people in 180 countries participated in the World Cleanup Day campaign initiated by Estonia this year, a threefold increase from the year before BNS reports.

Volunteers visited beaches, streets, forests and parks around the world in global effort to clean up waste from public spaces and nature.

Compared with 2018 World Cleanup Day in Estonia participants increased threefold to around to number 28,038, organizers of the initiative told BNS on Wednesday.

At least 333,000 liters of litter were collected in Estonia, including some 1.1 million cigarette butts, mostly by students and kindergarten children.

The event drew the largest number participants in Indonesia, which reported some 10 million volunteers, followed by Pakistan and the United States with 2.5 million and two million participants, respectively.

The number of participants also increased in Cambodia, where 800,000 people came out to clean, while Bulgaria had their cleanup last weekend with 434,000 volunteers. 220,000 people took part in Iran, 300,000 in Brazil and 330,000 in Italy.

"It is humbling to see so many people come together for a goal that they all believe in and want to work towards - a cleaner planet," said president of Let's Do It World, Heidi Solba, who organised the event.

World Cleanup Day 2019 started on Sept. 21, Estonian time, in the Pacific island of Fiji and ended 24 hours later in Hawaii. Cleanups were organised in countries and territories on all continents, including the Arctic, where a group of cruise operators along with passengers put aside their binoculars, rolled up their sleeves and collected litter from the Arctic beaches to combat marine plastic pollution.

Plastic was the main type of waste found on beaches across the world from Tonga to Bangladesh to Martinique. In Hawaii, the American singer-songwriter Jack Johnson led a cleanup that highlighted the amount of microplastic on the Hawaiian beaches. In Sri Lanka, 250 kg plastic and 15 kg of flip-flops were collected on just one beach. 

Plastic waste made up most of the waste collected in Europe, too, but this year millions of cigarette butts found their way into trash bags and several countries chose to highlight the prevalence of cigarette butts on our streets and nature.

In France, Italy, Belgium and the Netherlands cigarette butts featured heavily as well. Along with picking them up, the local teams educated the public through media on the harms of cigarette butts, that are often believed to be biodegradable.

Plogging, picking up trash while jogging, was another popular theme this year. Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden joined a plogging group in Sweden and running groups across the United Kingdom, Czech Republic and Netherlands among others chose this sporty way of picking up trash to participate in World Cleanup Day.

Despite a difficult security situation on the lead up to presidential elections in Afghanistan, a group of climate enthusiasts still organised a cleanup in Kabul. But they went further than just that. They built a tower of all plastic collected and paraded it through the city to raise awareness of plastic pollution in the country.

Apart from political conflict and security, many countries had to reckon with the forces of nature. The biggest earthquake in 30 years hit Albania while 100,000 people were out in the streets and nature cleaning. Fires sparked by illegal land clearing in Indonesia spread haze across the country, but also Malaysia and Singapore, which meant many of the planned cleanups in the countries had to be cancelled or moved to different locations.

Cleanups also swept across the African continent and massive post-cleanup street parties complete with music and dancing echoed from DRC to Mozambique to Cameroon and Nigeria.

An estimated 2 million people turned out to clean in all 50 US states and 5 overseas territories, led by the National Cleanup. Among other natural landmarks, the Hudson river in New York was cleared of some of the waste it holds.

The Caribbean and Latin America saw people turn up to clean beaches, streets, forests and mountains. In Brazil, cleanups took place in 1,200 cities across the vast country while Argentina and Panama attracted sizable crowds following successful national PR campaigns.

The next World Cleanup Day will take place on Sept. 19 2020.


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Editor: Helen Wright

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