Estonia: 50,000 citizens clean up city in a day

Listening to this story makes me think of its opposing umbra, Naples. Problem with Naples though is the lack of waste treatment centres, something you could not build in a day, nevertheless…

“When Estonians regained independence from the former Soviet Union in 1991 they not only acquired new political freedoms, they inherited a mass of rubbish–thousands and thousands of tonnes of it scattered across illegal dumping sites around the country. When concerned citizens decided that the time had come to clean it up, they turned not to the government, but to tens of thousands of their peers.

Using a combination of global positioning systems and GoogleMaps, two entrepreneurs (Skype guru Ahti Heinla and Microlink and Delfi founder Rainer Nolvak) enlisted volunteers to plot the location of over 10,000 illegal dump sites, including detailed descriptions and photos. That, in itself, was ambitious. Phase II of the clean-up initiative was, by their own admission, rather outrageous: clean-up upwards of 80% of the illegal sites in one day, using mass collaboration.

So, on May 3rd, over 50,000 people scoured fields, streets, forests and riverbanks across the country, picking up everything from tractor batteries to paint tins (see a BBC video here). Much of this junk was ferried to central dumps, often in the vehicles of volunteers.

If 50,000 Estonians can clean-up their country in one day (albeit a relatively small one), what else could they do? As Tiina Urm, a spokesperson for the initiative put it when speaking to Reuters: “It is not really about the rubbish. It is about changing people’s mind sets. Next year it might be something else.”

via Anthony D.Williams

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