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Clean Up The World Weekend- The Story

In 1987, Ian Kiernan AO competed in the BOC Challenge solo yacht race and as he sailed around-the-world he was shocked by the pollution he continually encountered in areas such as the Sargasso Sea in the Caribbean. Having waited years to see the Sargasso’s legendary long golden weeds, Ian’s anticipation turned to anger and disappointment when he found them polluted and tangled with rubbish.

Ian recalled. “I can’t overstate the disappointment I felt when I found this sea of magic and myth littered with rubbish from discarded thongs, plastic buckets and disposable nappies, to toothpaste tubes and plastic bags.”

Once back in Sydney, Ian enlisted the help of friends and held Clean Up Sydney Harbour Day (1989) which motivated 40,000 volunteers to remove rusted car bodies, plastics of all kinds, glass bottles and cigarette butts from the harbour.
Ian and his committee believed that if a city could be mobilised to take action, then so could the whole nation. Almost 300,000 volunteers turned out on the first Clean Up Australia Day in 1990 and that involvement has steadily increased over the last 21 years.

The next step for Ian was to take the concept of Clean Up Australia Day to the rest of the world. After gaining the support of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) , Clean Up the World was launched in 1993. The uptake of Clean Up the World globally (an estimated 35 million people in over 130 countries now participate each year) has demonstrated that this simple Australian idea has universal appeal and the health of the environment is of concern to people worldwide.

Clean Up The World- Today

Now in its 22nd year, Clean Up the World, held in conjunction with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), mobilises an estimated 35 million volunteers from 130 countries annually, making it one of the largest community-based environmental campaigns in the world.

The campaign brings together businesses, community groups, schools, governments and individuals in a range of activities and programs that positively improve local environments. Since the first Clean Up the World campaign in 1993 the improvements achieved due to the efforts of millions of concerned volunteers around the world have been astounding. Examples of community-led Clean Up the World activities include:

  • Recycling and resource recovery
  • Tree planting
  • Education campaigns
  • Water reuse and conservation
  • Competitions
  • Exhibitions
  • Fix up projects.

While participants are encouraged to hold environmental events on or around CUW Weekend (always the 3rd weekend in September), Clean Up the World is also designed to provide support to groups undertaking activities throughout the year.

Clean Up the World is associated with the Department of Public Information of the United Nations and is supported by, and collaborates with, a range of partner organisations in various countries.