Photo by Simson Petrol on Unsplash

The largest annual day of civic action is coming. Will the United States step up?

World Cleanup Day is a movement that started 10 years ago in a country with a population of just 1.3 million people. Now millions of people around the world participate every year. The goal is to get at least 5% of every nation’s people to participate in picking up trash, starting in their own town or neighborhood. The United States joined the effort a couple years ago but less than 0.1% of Americans have participated. What would happen if 5% of us — 1 person out of every 20 — picked up 1 bag of trash from streets, highways, rivers, beaches, and trails across the United States? Each nation reports how much trash each of their small teams collected, and it remains to be seen how we’ll do this year.

Since 2008, World Cleanup Day has been expanding across the globe. It is an annual event where the citizens of each country organize themselves into small teams and pick up trash in their towns, neighborhoods, and public spaces. The long-term vision is to clean up trash across the entire world and empower populations to take responsibility for proper trash disposal everywhere. We have the power to inspire a change in civic attitudes on a global scale, through this one action.

It’s estimated that 1.3 billion tons of household waste gets disposed of each year across the world, of which an estimated 8 million tons end up in the ocean each year. Plastic in the ocean breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces and is toxic or harmful to fish and other ocean creatures. Because it can’t be digested, plastic eventually makes its way up the food chain and can become toxic to humans and other organisms living on land. If we continue to dispose of our trash in this manner, we continuously increase the risk of compromising ecosystems that fish rely upon. The impact is felt up through the food chain.

The effect of picking up trash is greater than you might think. Places which are free of trash reflect the care and civic engagement of the communities living there. It feels psychologically safer to be in a clean, well-cared-for public setting. As mismanaged trash goes into the environment, harmful chemicals and toxins soak into our soil and it has an enormously expensive human impact.

Participating in the World Cleanup Day movement locally allows people to be truly engaged in making the United States a better place to live, while also helping fix a global problem which hurts everyone. This is an opportunity to be part of a coordinated global effort which has the power to make a massive and lasting difference for our environment.

The United States of America is full of people who proudly love this country, the land, and who want to see our society flourish. Being part of a civic movement to improve the world is a powerful step in the right direction, as it brings us into solidarity with everyone else around the world who is taking action to preserve the health of their part of the planet. We can take this small step to improve our communities and the environment in a powerful, lasting way. Caring for the land and sea around us is a patriotic activity, and it connects us with the rest of the world as we motivate each other to solve our local trash issues. When we report how much trash we collected on World Cleanup Day, let’s make it a point of pride.


Please bring trash cleanup to your own town or neighborhood! We have the opportunity to make the United States an active contributor to World Cleanup Day.

Join the Facebook page to get started.

Nations across the world see hundreds of thousands of their citizens participating annually.

In Estonia, where the World Cleanup Day movement started, the organizers envision 5% of people all around the world coming out to help clean up their country. The European country of Slovenia saw 14% of its population turn out for World Cleanup Day a few years ago, and other countries have participated at high levels as well. From what we’ve seen some countries achieve, we know it’s possible.

Let’s show our pride by participating in the global effort to clean up trash. You might live in a part of America where the streets are clean and trash doesn’t seem like an issue, but have you noticed highways or parks with trash or neighborhoods where trash is thrown on the grass, in the bushes, and in the street? You may also live somewhere in the US where you can start cleaning up trash right outside your front door because it’s all around.

The global cleanup event is taking place on Saturday, September 15, 2018. Our country is diverse and huge, so it makes sense for us to participate over three days, Friday through Sunday, to allow for people of all cultures, customs, traditions, and organizations to join in.

It’s easy to participate. Pick a time and location and invite your community with a Facebook event. Send this article to your friends and ask them to help you clean up trash for World Cleanup Day.

Spend the day with your friends and community, doing something wonderful for the world. Then celebrate your cleaner surroundings with the people you’ve worked with and met.

Get resources for creating a local cleanup with the World Cleanup Day USA page on Facebook and connect with other organizers.

Let’s do it, United States of America!

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