World Cleanup Day participant totals increase to 17 million

One month following the first ever World Cleanup Day (WCD), the official number of participants in the world's largest coordinated civic clean-up event has increased to 17 million participants.

On 15 September, 158 countries and territories joined the so-called "green wave," a series of cleanups that began in Fiji and swept across the planet to finish in the American Samoa, WCD said in a press release - writes

Six tropical cyclones affected more than 15 countries in different parts of the world, and several countries and many regions had to reschedule their cleanups to ensure the safety of their participants. In the month to follow, however, most have since been carried out.

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 36 million volunteers have taken part.

"Every region and country has its unique challenges regarding waste, but the underlying root causes are the same," said Heidi Solba, head of the WCD network team. "Working on them together and sharing best local practices increases our chances to create a lasting change. Through World Cleanup Day and the Let's Do It! movement, we have brought forward a new generation of leaders who are eager to ignite a shift in their communities, countries and regions."

Solba admitted that a cleanup is not in itself a solution, but stressed that it is a powerful tool for education and awareness. "To create lasting change, we need to think about the next steps," she added.

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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