While Clean Up Australia Day is now a well-known event throughout the nation, like most environmentally friendly organisations, this too started off small by an “average Australian bloke” on a simple mission to make a difference in his own backyard. Now, thirty years later, Clean Up Australia Day as become the nation’s largest community-based environmental event.
In fact, since Clean Up Australia Day was born in 1990, more than 18.3 million Australians have donated their time to Clean Up Australia activities, resulting in 36 million hours of volunteer time that has been donated to help benefit our environment. That equates to more then 380,000 ute loads of rubbish being removed as part of Clean Up Australia Day activities.
Why do we need such a day? The problem with plastics
While Australia is a beautiful nation, with crystal blue oceans, tropical rainforests and red earth deserts, unfortunately Australia is one of the most wasteful countries in the developed world. Each year the waste we generate is growing at twice the rate of our population. In fact, here are some alarming statistics from Australia’s problem with waste:
- Australians use over 10 million plastic bags a day
- 3 million tonnes of food waste is produced every year (2.6 million being from households alone)
- 85% of soft plastics from bags and packaging ends up in landfill
- 6,000 kg of clothes are thrown out every 10 minutes in Australia (all of which goes straight to landfill)
- 1 billion coffee cups are used in Australia every year, which is enough to circumnavigate the world two and a half times (they are not recycled)
- In one day alone, Australians waste enough bottles and cans to stretch over 4,000 km – that is the whole way across Australia
- Only 56% of glass gets recycled, yet glass is infinitely recyclable
- 660 thousand tonnes of plastic waste is created by Australians every year
- Over 85% of furniture put out on the curb isn’t recycled and is instead sent to landfill.
So yes, while Australia is a beautiful country filled with many natural wonders, we also have a dark side when it comes to our wasteful consumption. It is clear that we need to make changes to our behaviour. One way to do this is to support community-based environmental events such as Clean Up Australia Day and help them continue to make a difference to our country.
What can you do on the day?
If you have decided that you want to get involved this Clean Up Australia Day, then that’s great! Luckily there are many ways that you can participate. You can get involved as a community (individuals, friends, family, local groups, etc), or as a business. You can also get involved as a school or youth group or even as a council (council support is essential to the success of Clean Up Australia events and there are a heap of ways that councils can get involved).
Like every year, Clean Up Australia Day is always the first Sunday in March, which means this year it falls on March 7th2021. However, if you are wanting to get involved as a business your Clean Up Australia Day will be on Tuesday 2nd March 2021, or if you are wanting to get involved as a school, the Schools Clean Up Day will be on Friday 5th March 2021.
Once you have your Clean Up team, school, or business organised, make sure to check the Clean Up Australia Day website with all the information on how to get involved
What can you do overall?
While it is nice to imagine, Australia’s waste and plastic challenges can’t be solved in just one day, what we really need to do is adopt more eco-friendly habits to live more sustainably every day of the year.
The first thing we need to start aiming towards is a circular economy. A circular economy is where all materials we own are treated as precious resources, and very little (preferably none) is thrown away. Currently, we use more of a linear economy, where items are used once or for a short time then thrown away, becoming landfill. Globally speaking, the current linear economy uses resources and creates waste at a rate of approximately 1.7 times what the Earth can support on a long-term basis (meaning currently the Earth takes one year and eight months to regenerated what we use in one year)
So how do we turn our current linear economy into a circular one?
Here are some simple actions individuals can do to help this:
- Avoid single-use items, it is so easy to get your hands-on reusable items these days. If you haven’t already, now is the time to do so.
- Avoid buying cheap products that won’t last long. Instead invest in products that will stand the test of time.
- If something breaks, try and get it repaired first before throwing it in the trash and buying a new one.
- Shop at second-hand stores and give products a second life.
- If you have to buy something new, see if you can buy products that are made from recycled materials.
Hopefully you can all get involved and make a difference this week and into the future 🤙🏽