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Team up to clean up

World Cleanup Day 2021 recently took place on Saturday, 18th September 2021, with 180 countries (including Malaysia) participating in the social action program. Aimed at combating the problem of global solid waste including a focus on marine debris, the idea for the day was sparked in Talinn, Estonia over 10 years ago and grew into a worldwide movement.

As we await the next World Cleanup Day on 17th September 2022, you don’t have to wait to make a change in your own life and community.

If you care about the environment, organising a clean-up day with friends and acquaintances in your own network can be a productive and even fun way to spend your weekend while also doing your part for the planet. Here are some tips on how to get started in being the change you want to see.

Target a specific area and people who care about that space

Photo by RF._.studio from Pexels

The main thing in gathering people together for a common cause is to have a shared concern. If for example you plan to clean up the park in your housing area, make a friendly flyer so that your neighbours can be aware of your clean-up day. If for example your area of focus is a popular hill or walking path that attracts people from all over your township, then target on connecting with the weekly or weekend joggers and hikers to inform them of the clean-up a few weeks in advance.

Use social media to your benefit

Create an event page for your clean-up day, and allow for comments and messages to answer further questions you may receive from interested participants. You may find that there will be common questions and suggestions that come up more often, and you may find useful information and tips from other fellow eco-warriors.

Provide clear instructions to your participants on how to get to the clean-up site, what to wear, what to bring, and what to expect.

Take leadership, but don’t forget to ask for help

It is good that in events where you’re soliciting public participation, that there be at least one or two main persons in charge to answer questions before the day, and to take charge and lead the actual clean-up on the day of.

If possible, pre-register some volunteers and assign them into sections or tasks, while also choosing others to lead in sub-groups so that you are not the only person addressing everyone’s concerns and queries.

In some cases, you might even get help from your town or neighbourhood council, so make sure you reach out to any local administrative bodies and associations.

Have a clear plan, and come prepared

By promoting your clean-up activity before the date, you should decide on how many volunteers you are ready to welcome based on how large your clean-up space is. You would also need to decide how many hours you want to spend on the clean-up, with a clear cut-off time that includes time for the final collection and disposing of the items gathered and bagged.

While you can ask your volunteers to also bring useful items, if you are in charge of the event, it will likely be your responsibility to prepare necessary items such as trash bags, tools such as trash grabbers, buckets, bins or other receptacles to collect items (with separate bins for recyclables, compostables and other categories of trash), and possibly even reusable or disposable gloves.

Photo by Polina Tankilevitch from Pexels

Start a communal fund to help with the clean-up operations

Most of the time, community clean-ups are a volunteer activity, and you will likely spend at least a bit of your own money, such as at the very least the petrol and parking costs you would incur to get yourself to the clean-up site.

To avoid undertaking the entire cost of the clean-up yourself, start a clean-up day fund and ask for donations from your community as it will be in the interest of a public space that everyone will use and benefit from after the clean-up. Whether asking for donations of any amount or suggesting a fixed minimum amount from each participant, make sure to be transparent about what the funds will be used for, such as for the trash collecting materials, or even to provide drinking water for volunteers on the day.  

Finally, remember that even if the idea to hold a clean-up day started with you, teamwork will make the dream work, and that ultimately the clean-up will be for the benefit of a public space that everyone will get to enjoy.

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