Maybe the story of the beginning of World CleanUp Day, which arose from Clean Up Australia Day that is celebrated this Sunday 4th March 2018, can be an inspiration for many countries which are trying to change their economy into a tourismbased economy.

Everything started in Australia in 1989 when an ‘average Australian bloke’ had a simple idea to make a difference in his own backyard – Sydney Harbour – that most beautiful of world’s harbours.

This simple idea became Australia’s largest community-based environmental event, Clean Up Australia Day. It is hard to believe that this campaign began as the inspiration of one man, Australian builder and solo yachtsman, Ian Kiernan, an Australian of the Year.

In 1987 Ian Kiernan competed in the BOC Challenge solo around-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. The polluted state of the world’s oceans motivated him to act. 

Once back in Sydney Ian organised Clean Up Sydney Harbour Day in 1989 which received an enormous public response with more than 40,000 Sydneysiders donating their time and energy to clean up the harbour. Rusted car bodies, plastics of all kinds, glass bottles and cigarette butts were removed by the tonne.


The next year Clean Up Australia Day was born with the aim to mobilise the nation. Almost 300,000 volunteers turned out on the first Clean Up Australia Day in 1990 and that involvement has steadily increased ever since.

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.

On 15th September 2018 about 150 countries will be involved in World Cleanup Day, that one day in the year when the population remembers that cigarette butts, food wrappings and plastic containers belong in recycling and waste containers, not on the sidewalk, streams, gutters or parks.

World Cleanup Day has not caught on enough in its 25 years of existence to make many parts of our towns and countryside much cleaner, though some towns have exemplified its mission, and it is still a tragedy that the byways and provincial roads of many regions in Italy suffer from the plague of arbitrary garbage dumping.

‘Be Proud of Your Town’ is the baseline for a town to change as pride opens your eyes to the little things you can do to create a renaissance in your town – to make it beautiful and attractive to tourists. Because tourism is the saving grace for many of the towns that have been catapulted back into a rural lifestyle since the abandonment by multinational businesses of many of their industrial investments in the regions.

Some time this century I hope that my grandchildren will be able to call out ‘I’m proud, we’ve cleaned up the World’.  Will you help, just a bit?

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Gavin Tulloch

Scienziato e poeta. Ama la chimica, il vino, le donne e l’opera, ma non sappiamo in quale ordine