UN Backs Australia's Rubbish Plan

THE broom that is sweeping Australia is now moving around the rest of the world.

Clean Up Australia, an annual event of voluntary litter and refuse collection, is going global.

On Sept. 18 to 20, organizers hope to begin a Clean Up the World campaign, aimed at uniting volunteer litter collectors from 100 cities and towns around the world.

The global sweep has the backing of the United Nations Environment Program, which has given the Sydney-based group half of its $200,000 (Australian; US$150,000) seed funding.

Ian Kiernan, chairman of the group says community and environmental groups in Canada, Chile, Egypt, France, Hong Kong, Japan, Kenya, Kuwait, Mauritius, Micronesia, New Zealand, Sweden, Thailand, and the United States have expressed interest in the project. The world clean up day will coincide with the annual North American Beach Clean Up campaign which is hosted by the Center for Marine Conservation in Washington, D.C.

Although Australia will participate in the world rubbish collection day, it will continue to do its own clean up on the first Sunday of March, which is this Sunday.

The final cities and towns that will take part will be decided once the organization raises US$3 million. The funding will be used for producing a manual on how to organize a clean up, and pay the organizational expenses. If the full amount cannot be raised, Mr. Kiernan says the actual Clean Up day might be postponed, or the number of cities participating reduced.

"We will raise the money," says Kiernan, a former round-the-world yacht racer.

Although most people will be bending and stooping during the clean up days, Kiernan says the aim is to focus the community's attention on wider environmental issues such as waste reduction, recycling, and water pollution.

The Clean Up Australia campaign, for example, produces an annual report which details the type of litter collected. This has led environmental groups to try to get companies to change their packaging.

The effort, which will get 500,000 Australians scouring highways, urban parks, and public beaches to pick up trash, is the result of Kiernan's round-the-world sail. He saw trash in all the world's oceans. Four years ago he decided to try to get Sydneysiders to clean up the harbor. To his surprise, 40,000 people turned up.

There is some evidence the four year effort in Australia is beginning to pay off. Organizers have decided that some 90 sites cleaned up over the last four years in Sydney don't need another sweep this year.

The same is true in Bega, a farming town in the southern state of New South Wales.

"This is our third year and we are not collecting as much as the first two years," says Arthur McDonald, president of the Bega Rotary which is organizing the shire.

The Australian campaign has also continued to grow. This year there are 515 cities or towns cleaning 5,432 sites compared to 423 cities cleaning 4,452 sites in 1991. In fact, the clean up will extend to Antarctica this year where 69 research scientists at the Australian base at Casey will pull up discarded 44 gallon drums, metal sleds, and pieces of packing cartons.

Noel Mifsud, station leader, says the effort "gives you a taste of what other Australians are doing."

The campaign in Australia has been particularly successful at mobilizing young people, such as girl guides, boy scouts, and environmental clubs.

Richard Waring, a teacher at the Pittwater High School in Mona Vale, says the clean up days "have had a wonderful impact on leadership qualities."

In addition, he says some of the students have joined a coastal studies center and some are majoring in environmental studies at universities.

"Our own students are explaining the environmental problems in the community," says Mr. Waring.

One of those students, Dionne Hird, a junior, says the clean ups are making an impact on the students.

"They realize how much rubbish is littering our system," she says. "After a while they realize it's better if we put [the litter] into the bins."

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