World Cleanup Day is here again, and this year it falls on the same day as the International Coastal Cleanup 2020 (“ICC”), as millions of people across the world join forces to make our world and environment a cleaner place.
But while cleanups are usually an enthusiastic gathering of passionate people ready to make an impact by cleaning up beaches or their local communities, this is a little trickier in the age of Corona.
The good news is, a cleanup can happen just about anywhere at anytime!
Let’s breakdown how you can get involved this World Cleanup Day
Choosing A Cleanup
Do a Solo Cleanup or Organise a Small Cleanup with Your Friends
The benefit of doing your own solo cleanup or organising one with your friends is the freedom of location, duration and activity.
It doesn’t have to be special location or a beach, you can clean up right in your own neighbourhood or somewhere close to you (eliminating the carbon impact from travelling!). You’ll also reduce the likelihood of crowding in a big group.
Choosing Your Location
Every area we clean up means less trash gets swept into our waterways and into the ocean – so think your local ‘taman’, road, hiking trail, etc.
My personal favourite is to plog while I’m hiking.
Try and stay away from areas with lots of traffic or no sidewalks, these are also less likely to have pedestrians i.e. potential litterers and hence, less litter.
Unfortunately, littering culture is alive and strong in Malaysia so you’ll come across many areas you can do your cleanup!
The 10 Minute Cleanup – Wherever You Are
This is a low commitment activity you can do just about anywhere, at anytime, without a specific plan in mind.
While you’re walking to your car, going about town, or taking a stroll in your neighborhood; just start picking up any trash you see.
Joining An Organised Group Cleanup
If you’d rather join a Cleanup near you, you can refer to the Malaysians Against Marine Debris Facebook group, where Reef Check Malaysia and local communities and organisations are coordinating local cleanups for ICC.
There will be a limit to the number of people for most of these cleanups, so just register with the organisers via the details in their posters. Note that these are mainly beach cleanups, which may be quite a distance for some of us living in cities. City cleanups are also happening across Kuala Lumpur, however these are less publicised and kept within organisations, possibly for crowd control.
How To Create Impact With Your Cleanup
Data, Data, Data
After all that effort, it is IMPORTANT for us to log our data. This will provide VALUABLE DATA on our current litter problem in Malaysia. We have lots of work to do to clean up our environment but also create awareness on litter literacy.
Create more impact with your effort by providing VALUABLE data on your trash collection, this will provide insight to better understand the local and global waste problem and create awareness on litter literacy
If you are doing a beach cleanup: Download the Clean Swell App by Ocean Conservancy
If you are doing a cleanup at the beach or anywhere else (in Malaysia): Log your data at Impactlution.com under ‘Audit Submission’
- After your cleanup, separate the trash into the categories listed in either Clean Swell or Impactlution
- Audit the trash (count the number of pieces you’ve picked up in each category)
- Take a picture and upload it
Go Low Waste on Your Supplies
You’ll need trash bags and gloves or trash pickers to do a cleanup. Instead of using new materials, why not reuse what you have instead, instead of adding to the waste?
I sourced reused plastic bags from family members and reused a small plastic bag to act as a glove. Make sure you use sturdy bags to contain the trash, to avoid trash escaping into the environment again due to breakage.
Remember to bring your reusable water bottle refiled with water.
This will be a little tricky as recyclables should be clean and dry before being sent to recycling in order to not contaminate other recyclables.
The aim is to recover as much as possible from the environment and send as little as possible to landfill. My suggestion is to aim for low hanging fruit / more easily handled materials.
Pick out recyclable items from your trash pile that are easier to clean and more widely accepted for recycling, like:
- Aluminium drink cans
- PET bottles (mineral water, soft drink bottles)
Dispose off the rest responsibly by making sure they are secured in a trash bag and placed in a proper trash bin that is regularly collected.
Speak Up About The Global Waste Problem on Social Media
The most important takeaway from any cleanup is the message.
Everyone needs to be aware of the severity of our global waste problem, and the prevalent littering issues and mismanagement of waste locally.
The visual impact of cleanup is excellent for driving this message home.
The majority of society has learnt to ignore the amount of waste we’re creating because we have grown so accustomed to it. Littering is also second nature and ‘acceptable’ to many citizens.
Use your voice (and social media) to spread awareness far and wide, and add your own narrative on how we can combat this issue as individuals, such as tips to reduce and refuse waste.
Cleanups can only do so much in combating the global waste issue if we don’t change the way we consume. We need societal and structural change to truly turn this around.
So let’s not stop there – let that impact multiple across everyday of the year as we continue to foster a more conscious mindset in Malaysia towards our planet, its people and all living things