Ever been on a walk and noticed rubbish on the side of the road, footpath, on the beach or in a park? Probably. I can’t count the number of times I have.

Rubbish on a street in Hong Kong

While it might not be the most pleasant thing in the world to pick up other peoples’ rubbish, many people do try, which is great! But, even if you have never done anything like that, today’s the day to get involved. Today, 21st September, is World Cleanup Day! So, get outside and start some clean-ups of your house, garden and local public areas, and if you can encourage others to do so as well, perfect!

This….
…could become this!

World Cleanup day is celebrated in 157 countries worldwide, and you can sign up to help the UK or Ireland effort. It is one of the biggest movements of the last few decades and does a world of good for those living in polluted areas and for the planet itself. In the words of the organisation itself, it ‘crosses borders and defies religious and cultural differences’. This is exactly what we need in a world that feels more divided by the day, a movement to unite everyone for the good of the planet we live on. Even those people who may not usually work together, such as government, big corporations, small businesses and the public.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Petty Officer 1st Class Scotty L. Hendricks, operations specialist at Coast Guard Sector Jacksonville, Removes trash at the family beach inside at Huguenot Memorial Park, Aug. 16, 2011. Coast Guard members attended the beach cleanup to help promote community outreach and unit morale among servicemembers. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Jessica Potter.

In 2018 18 million people were involved in cleaning up their area. This involves managing waste in areas that are perhaps polluted with plastics, and waste that has been improperly disposed of in areas such as beaches, forests and green spaces. Another area that needs cleaned up desperately is the ocean, with plastic waste causing millions of animal deaths each year, from straws getting stuck in turtles’ noses to birds getting caught in fishing twine, or even dying from malnutrition after eating too much plastic.

Many turtles confuse plastic bags with their jellyfish prey. Translation: ‘Plastic bag or jellyfish?’ The turtle then says ‘I don’t know either!’
A dead albatross chick with a belly full of plastic pieces

In fact there is a large island of floating plastic waste in the middle of the Pacific ocean. Ocean currents wash all the rubbish that makes it to the ocean into one place, creating an ‘island’ made entirely of floating waste, called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

Estonia are the country that were at the forefront of this movement in 2008. They ran a campaign to get 50,000 people cleaning up the country (that’s the whole country) in just one day. Inspired by this, the movement spread, and now, 11 years later it has become a global phenomenon. I’m pretty inspired!

And not only that, but this is just the start of what the organisation (Let’s Do It World) aims to do. They are advocating for a clean and healthy waste free planet, which will require a sea change in how we work as a society.

We could all stand to take a leaf out of Sweden’s book; not only have they achieved 99% of waste recycled, reused or reclaimed for energy, they actually import waste from other countries! They are so efficient at waste management that they run out of waste every year and so they import other countries’ waste to keep their recycling plants running. Half of Sweden’s waste goes back into creating energy to heat homes, and only 1% goes to landfill.

A recycling point in Sweden. Much more thorough than ours!

18 million people, while astounding, is frankly only a small fraction of the world’s population. These are the people who cared enough and had the time and energy to do something small for the world. The world, which we live on, is suffering under the rule of humanity and this is only a fraction of what we need to do. But, it’s a great start!

We can make a change to the world!

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