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World Clean Up Day: Toward Responsible Consumption

Did you know that every third Saturday of September is World Clean Up Day, the biggest single-day waste collection in human history? This event gathers people worldwide and addresses the threat of solid waste and its negative impact on ecosystems worldwide.

World Clean Up Day raises awareness about our consumption and disposal practices. It exposes the magnitude of mismanaged waste globally and emphasizes responsible waste management toward a clean planet.

Moreover, World Cleanup Day harnesses our collective abilities and promotes global sustainability by encouraging reducing, reusing, and recycling. Read on to learn more.

Featured in: September - Awareness Months, Days & Observances.

History and Background of World Clean Up Day 

clean up day volunteers
Photo by Steve Jewett on Unsplash

In 2008, the entrepreneur Rainer Nõlvak noticed illegal waste polluting his native Estonia and suggested a solution called "Let's Do It 2008." 

This initiative involved a massive cleanup event where over 50,000 people, around 4% of Estonia's population, participated. After five hours, the participants removed 10,000 tons of waste, demonstrating the effectiveness of collective efforts toward environmental preservation.

The "Let's Do It, World" campaign quickly spread to 96 other countries by 2012. Volunteers worldwide worked together to promote a cleaner and greener planet by building bridges between disparate communities under the flag of sustainable living.

In 2017, World Clean Up Day was officially launched and now takes place every third Saturday of September. 

The first World Clean Up Day in 2018 had 17.8 million participants from 157 countries; in 2019, it saw an even larger turnout of over 21.2 million people from 180 countries. And even during the pandemic, tons of people still joined in.

Related Read: Environmental Impact of Plastic Waste.

The Cause and Its Challenges

pile of garbage on street
Photo by Gera Kulik on Unsplash

Trash littering urban streets, forest floors, rivers, and beaches threatens the world's environment and public health.

We must address this problem through initiatives such as World Cleanup Day. Neglecting this problem could have dire consequences for marine life and the environment, entangling sea animals and creating disease breeding grounds2.

According to the World Bank, global waste will increase by 70% by 2050 if we don't act. 

In addition to the sheer volume of waste, developing nations struggle with waste management systems, resulting in pollution and health risks from open pits and polluted waters. 

Furthermore, the United Nations reports that only 9% of plastic waste has been recycled. We must shift our cultural mindset away from throwaway habits to reduce pollution.

Related Read: The Effect of Plastic Waste on Marine Life.

Facts On Why World Clean-Up Day Matters

Every year, humans produce an astonishing 2.01 billion tonnes of waste; around a third of this volume does not undergo environmentally safe disposal methods. Unfortunately, we often overlook the question of where our trash ends up.

Littering threatens the environment. Hazardous substances from litter pollution can contaminate the soil, water, and air. Our disregard for proper waste disposal accelerates climate change, endangers wildlife, and compromises public health. 

We must also address plastic, which appears in different places, even on mountaintops and ocean floors. For instance, around 8 million tons of plastic enter our oceans annually. That is equivalent to dumping one garbage truck per minute.

Related Read: Plastic Pollution Facts & Statistics.

Efforts and Initiatives

throwing out garbage
Photo by OCG Saving The Ocean on Unsplash

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) supports World Clean Up Day, working towards reducing waste on a global scale. Their campaigns combat the growing issue of solid waste by rallying communities and creating a sense of urgency around this environmental problem.

Moreover, the International Coastal Cleanup, led by the Ocean Conservancy, is another significant initiative that supports World Clean Up Day. 

Volunteers and partners worldwide unite to clean up littered beaches and waterways.

Finally, the global organization Let's Do It World promotes environmental awareness and inspires millions of volunteers worldwide to take action towards a cleaner planet.

How to Get Involved and Support World Clean Up Day

  • Bring a refuse sack and gloves, and clean up your local beach, street, or park. 
  • Enlist others to join you to create a satisfying collective effort towards a cleaner community.
  • If no clean-up events are happening in your area, consider picking a local area that could benefit from a cleanup, coordinate with your local council if needed, and encourage others to join. 
  • Another way to support World Cleanup Day is through education. Study the harmful effects of pollution and the importance of a clean environment. Then, share your knowledge with friends or your community through educational sessions.  
  • Speaking of sharing, use social media to spread the word effectively. And remember to use the hashtag #WorldCleanUpDay.


Let's all actively participate in World Clean Up Day by joining in on litter picking1. This begins our journey towards a more environmentally responsible society. Together, let’s achieve incredible things through small but significant steps towards a waste-free world, not only once a year but daily.

World Clean Up Day FAQs

1. What is World Clean-Up Day?

Celebrated every third Saturday of September, it is the world's biggest waste collection day, raising awareness about waste management, pollution, and the importance of keeping our environment clean.

2. Why is it important?

Its beauty lies in individuals, communities, and organizations taking collective action to clean up their surroundings, reduce waste, and promote sustainable practices.

3. How can I join?

Join a local clean-up event, organize your initiative, or consciously clean up your immediate surroundings.


Wilson, D. C., Velis, C., & Cheeseman, C. (2006). Role of informal sector recycling in waste management in developing countries. Habitat International, 30(4), 797-808.


Kühn, S., Rebolledo, E., & Van Franeker, J. (2015). Deleterious effects of litter on marine life. In Springer eBooks (pp. 75–116).

By Mike Gomez, BA.

Mike is a degree-qualified researcher and writer passionate about increasing global awareness about climate change and encouraging people to act collectively in resolving these issues.

Fact Checked By:
Isabela Sedano, BEng.

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