In 1989 an ‘average Australian bloke’ had a simple idea to make a difference in his own backyard – Sydney Harbour. This simple idea has now become the nation’s largest community-based environmental event, Clean Up Australia Day.
As an avid sailor, Ian had always dreamt of sailing around the world. In 1987 his dream came true when he competed in the BOC Challenge Solo Round-the-World Yacht Race. As he sailed through the oceans of the world in his yacht ‘Spirit of Sydney’ he was shocked and disgusted by the pollution and rubbish that he continually encountered in areas such as the Sargasso Sea in the Caribbean.
Once back in Sydney Ian organised a community event with the support of a committee of friends – Clean Up Sydney Harbour. Clean Up Sydney Harbour Day in 1989 received an enormous public response, with more than 40,000 Sydneysiders donating their time and energy to clean up the harbour.
The next year Clean Up Australia Day was born. Ian and his committee believed that if a capital city could be mobilised into 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 ever since.
In the past 26 years, Australians have devoted more than 31 million hours towards the environment through Clean Up Australia Day and collected over 331 thousand tonnes of rubbish.
The next step 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. In its inaugural year, Clean Up the World involved approximately 30 million people in 80 countries.
The appeal of Clean Up the World (an estimated 40 million people from 130 countries annually take part) has demonstrated that this simple Australian idea has universal appeal and the health of the environment is of concern to people and communities worldwide.
Clean Up the World demonstrates that people across the planet are willing to do something themselves to help protect and care for their environment.
Since then Clean Up Australia has evolved into an organisation that works with the community, government and business to provide practical solutions to help us all live more sustainably every day of the year.
Sunday 5th March 2017
This year I decided that my family and I would take part in our first Clean Up Australia Day. I registered an open for volunteers event in the park behind our house so that anyone and everyone could join us. I also posted it to my facebook page and immediately got a couple of my friends involved.
The day started out looking very dreary and overcast, which suited me just fine as I didn’t mind cleaning up in the rain. But it was not to be, it cleared up by 8am and was a balmy 34deg C/93.2deg F by 10.30 when we started.
I had only expected my friends and another couple who registered online to my site. Yet we ended up having another couple of groups join us so there were 12 of us in the end. It was a nice surprise to have so many helpers. I organised everyone to do certain sections of the park, gave them their rubbish and recycling bags and then sent them on their way, with all of us meeting back at the starting point 2 hours later.
My eldest, who is almost 3, and I joined my friends along one side of the park that has a creek that runs though it. The large grassy parts were mostly rubbish free. But it was in the long grass and trees that ran beside the creek where we found most of the rubbish. Soft drink cans, juice boxes, plastic bottles, among the more common things found. But we also found an old rusted out folding chair, a torch, lots of alcohol bottles and cans, plus a few items of drug paraphernalia.
But the rubbish that really stumped me was the 10 or so plastic bags of dog poop. Someone, I think the same one because they were all the same type of bag, would use a baggie and scoop up their dog’s poop and then throw it into the bushes. I mean seriously WTF!?!?! Why not just leave the dog poop on the ground where it will decompose a lot quicker than it will in a plastic bag?! Otherwise take it with you and dump it at home like you are supposed to!
Back at the starting point everyone consolidated the rubbish and left it near my house for the council to come and collect and take to the dump or be recycled. In the end we had around 10 bags of recycling and 5-6 bags of normal rubbish. I feel that was a job well done and I am so proud of our accomplishment. And my little fella had an absolute blast helping clean up and making friends with the other boys who were helping. Even though his idea of rubbish was leaves and seed pods.. bless him!!
Cleaning up rubbish for a couple of hours was a great way to spend our Sunday.. No seriously! We got some sun and fresh air. Had a great time chatting with our friends and making new ones. And we did our part to help make Australia cleaner and that is such a rewarding feeling.