Isabella Ross

380,000 + ute loads of rubbish removed. 36 million hours of volunteer time donated. 18.3 million Australians getting involved over the last 3 decades. These are just some of the incredible figures to come as a result of Clean Up Australia (CUA), founded by Ian Kiernan AO. In its 31st year and with CUA Day on 7th March, we spoke to chairman Pip Kiernan about how people can get involved on the day and beyond.

Could you tell our readers a bit about the #stepuptocleanup pledge?

#stepuptocleanup all about encouraging our volunteers to make changes to their everyday behaviours. We have some great everyday Aussies making pledges – one is vowing to only buy second-hand clothes in a year, others are saying no to single-use plastic water bottles. It’s a way for Australians to think about what they can do beyond CUA Day. We don’t want a small group of people doing things perfectly, rather it is about the majority doing their small bit which collectively has a greater impact.

Have volunteers noticed any patterns of wastage amid this new COVID-normal?   

Throughout the year, our volunteers have been seeing more waste associated with the pandemic – disposable masks, gloves, sanitise wipes, hand sanitiser containers, takeaway coffee cups. We are living differently and unfortunately that has meant we are using more plastic.

What are some habits you would suggest to those starting their sustainability journey?

Don’t be overwhelmed and think you have to revolutionise your life – there are little things you can do gradually. Start thinking about what you are buying, such as reducing overpacked items like fruit and vegetables. Saying no to single-use plastics is a big one too. Making choices as to what we buy sends a very strong message to manufacturers and supermarkets – we can underestimate the huge influence the consumer has. Also having a good understanding of what is recyclable is key. For further tips, I would recommend our Buy Recycled platform:

The statistics associated with CUA are just incredible. Reflecting on its legacy, I can imagine it’s a very proud moment?

To be the nation’s largest community-based environmental event is a really proud moment and it’s thanks to our volunteers. Australians continue to want to get involved and do something practical for the environment. Plus, they care about their public places.

As a North Shore local, what are some of your favourite spots?

Wendy Whitley’s Secret Garden in Lavender Bay, it’s truly magical. I also love Milson Park in Kirribilli – my dad, the founder of CUA, lived there for 40 years and there is a wonderful memorial for him that North Sydney Council and the Sydney Flying Squadron organised. The local community have done a beautiful vegetable garden there as well.

To get involved and receive a free starter clean up kit visit: