The United Nations (UN) estimates that each person will produce an average of 1.2 kg of municipal solid waste (MSW) daily. 7 billion of human beings produce 1.4 billion tons a year. But within 10 years that figure will rise to 2.2 billion tons a year. If we keep this trend, by 2050 we will have 9 billion of inhabitants on the planet and 4 billion tons of municipal waste a year.
Overall, the problem with solid waste is mainly due to improper disposal: landfills, debris, sewage, marine pollution. With that in mind, a group of people in Estonia rallied up 10 years ago and came up with a campaign that mobilized 4% of the country population to hit the streets and clean waste disposed illegally, within hours.
The World Cleanup Day expanded and today it involves 5% of the world population – 150 countries are committed to the so called “green wave”, which starts in New Zealand and ends in Hawaii. Everyone is working for a clean and healthy planet.
“We’re aware that cleaning up streets in one day won’t sort out the problem. But the idea is to mobilize people and show the amount of waste disposed improperly. Educate people so they can start disposing waste properly,” explains biologist Elisângela Rodrigues, teacher at Faculdades Metropolitanas Unidas – FMU (United Metropolitan School – FMU).
“We want to show the importance of sorting (the waste). Paper and plastic are not waste. They’re reusable, recyclable and money-worthy.” Elisângela says that Liberdade, one of São Paulo’s neighborhoods where she teaches, is mainly a business area with an intense flow of students.
Thus, Cleanup Day campaign aimed to involve students and workers in the area to take part of the event preparation and also the activities on the 15th. The events of the day included a cleanup task force, environmental education workshops, composting, seed sowing, environmental scavenger hunt and cultural attractions.
“We want to make people aware that we need to live in a clean, sustainable and human city. Show politicians that efficient environmental education policies are essential,” says Heleno Oliveira, geography teacher in municipal and state schools, and part of Rede Geração Solidária (Solidarity Generation Network), which acts in the northern area of the city of São Paulo.
He teaches 10-year old kids, but some of his students are older than 70. Oliveira decided to take part of mobilizations because he believes in the power of education and in individual actions that impact on collective experience. “People can and should do their part. We’re responsible for the waste we produce and we shouldn’t expect actions from politicians.”
Cleaning up an entire country
In Brazil, 343 cities and towns, 25 states and 22 city capitals participated in the World Cleanup Day. Many initiatives were represented in this nationwide effort on this date: non-governmental organizations, government, universities, companies, associations, private and public schools.
The major promoter of the campaign, Instituto Limpa Brasil (Brazil Cleanup Institute), leads 19 social and environmental related volunteer works just in São Paulo, on the 14th, 15th and 16th. On the 15th, the campaigns took place in 5 areas of the city: the parks Parque do Ibirapuera, Parque Cândido Portinari, Parque Raposo Tavares, the avenue Avenida Liberdade and the square Praça Comandante Eduardo de Oliveira.
Frederico Duarte, coordinator of Limpa Brasil São Paulo (Brazil Cleanup – São Paulo) in campaigns for the World Cleanup Day, explains that the agenda for the campaign in Raposo Tavares Park included a lecture by Instituto Akatú (Akatú Institute) on plastic lifecycle. A brief history on the park was also told, as the park was a landfill in the past and now is totally revitalized. The campaigns were launched in partnership with Braskem volunteer work program and the Greenfinity Foundation, as well as São Paulo City Hall and the Green and Environment Secretariat.
“I hope we’ll see change in consumption behavior. We’ve seen efforts towards changes, much owed to communication technology that helps make people conscious about production processes. But, in fact, environmental education is a civic issue. Discussions in classrooms about the topic and inputs on public space are key, in my opinion. The campaign raises this flag with interdisciplinary approaches, as many countries are involved, distinct cultures and realities are sharing the same goal.”
But activities did not end on this day. Those who still want to take part can download the World Cleanup app and help mapping waste they come across. Just take a pic, enable location services and tag the exact place where the waste was disposed. After taking proper actions for cleanup, take a new pic. The map helps identifying the most used locations for irregular disposal, preparing reports and thinking of public policies by region.
Content published in September 15, 2018