World Cleanup Day:

Making the world a cleaner place

A project started in 2008 by JCI Estonia is now engaging millions of people all over the world in creating a cleaner tomorrow.

by Sven Franzen

“JCI. Be better.” This is for sure one of the most known claims in our international network. Be better is our understanding of getting better every day through personal development and through realizing projects that make the world a better place. The World Cleanup Day is one of these projects - which is one of the largest civic movements in later history. The project team and all participants gather in order to make the world a cleaner place - a better place. They invest their valuable time for a better future for all of us. How the World Cleanup Day started and developed an exponential growing This project was started by JCI Estonia, who gathered 50.000 people in 2008. The idea was to unite people to clean the entire country. And JCI Estonia delivered: In just five hours 50.000 people achieved to clean up the entire country. The news of this success started to spread. Since this concept grew more and more. 12 years later the quick idea has grown into a global movement with millions of volunteers and leaders in 150 countries coordinating the World Cleanup Day activities in 180 countries. Last year 21,2 million people in 180 countries supported the World Cleanup Day to make the world a better and cleaner place.

World Cleanup Day is about uniting all sectors of society to bring the ultimate goal: a waste-free world. Whereas community cleanups are a common activity all around the world, what makes World Cleanup Day special is its scale. In 2020 11 million people from 166 countries joined in on the activities despite the pandemic restrictions.

The result: a cleaner environment The most visible result of this project is a cleaner environment. But this project is not only a project for a cleaner environment. It is the opportunity for the awareness of local and global waste issues. For World Cleanup Day to be successful and deliver a waste-free environment, all the sectors of society have to work together: the participants, the governments and private sector organizing the pickup of the collected garbage.

It is important to have good contacts with the media in order to cover the project, this is one opportunity to scale this project more and more. Everybody wants to live in a clean environment, that is a unifying and noble cause that motivates the majority.

Organizing cleanups on a massive scale means that all sectors need to participate - the civil, the private and the public sector.

Less important isn’t the fact that by doing it all together and in millions attracts the attention of the media bringing to light the huge waste issue the global community is fighting.

“The increasing amounts of waste are one of four global problems we have to tackle urgently. The only way to achieve a clean, healthy, and waste-free world is through transformative partnerships between governments, the private sector, civil society, and academia. As a result, it needs everybody to act, and we can’t overestimate the power of one single act - picking up trash on World Cleanup Day. The time for competition is over, the time of cooperation is about to start”, says Anneli Ohvril, executive Director of “Let’s Do It World”.

What we can achieve together: the power of scaling This project can be a massive scale globally and bring results and changes for our world. Anyone can pick up trash and make his environment a better place. “In 2018, a 101-year old man volunteered to clean in Curaçao. In Estonia, a group of mothers carrying their babies went out to clean,” says Ingrid Nielsen, Head of Global Communication of Let’s Do It World NGO, which is the organization who is supporting the World Cleanup Day as a NGO. In Scotland, a dog's association came out with the dogs. Daycares, schools, companies, government officials – the old, the young, the rich, the poor, the able and less able – everyone can contribute. People want to be involved in making their home a better place. And when they are given an opportunity to do so, they do, because they belong to the community. “I believe that showing what can be done with a small amount of time, can inspire people to create change,” says Jacob Lynge, JCI 8000 Aarhus member and JCI Denmark WCD national coordinator.

Facts about World Cleanup Day

  • 2008: first World Cleanup Day (WCD)
  • 2019: 21,2 million participants from 180 countries
  • 2020: 11,0 million participants from 166 countries first digital Cleanup Day (22nd of April 2020)
  • Next World Cleanup Day: 18th September 2021

Why you should participate and how you can do that You can help and support the world to a better and hopefully soon a waste-free place. It is easy: contact your World Cleanup Day team and ask how you can support, how you and your friends, your family can participate. “We need to work together and to join hands to turn things around. To build a safer, a more sustainable and more equitable world for everyone, everywhere”, said Marina Ponti, Director of UN SDG about the Action Week for the World Cleanup Day.