Sydney Harbour has gone from being a rubbish dump to a global icon because of the influence of Sydneysiders, who first took a stand on January 8, 1989 when the first ever community clean up took place.
Twenty years ago today, Clean Up Australia was born on the shores of Sydney Harbour when 40,000 Sydneysiders surprised organisers with their passion and concern for the health of the harbour and, fed up with government inaction, rolled up their sleeves and removed 3750 tonnes of rubbish polluting the water.
The Clean Up idea has since become a national and international community event, but dramatic changes followed the first clean up of Sydney Harbour.
Clean Up Australia founder and chairman Ian Kiernan AO said this week: “The NSW Government had tried to convince me not to organise the first clean up in 1989 but things quickly changed when 40,000 Sydneysiders turned up to say they were fed up with the harbour being treated as a rubbish dump.”
“The harbour is cleaner and healthier now then it has ever been since European settlement in 1788. There are still challenges ahead, such as to clean up toxic sediment in places such as Homebush Bay, but the harbour is what it should be – an icon to the world,” he said.
Ian Kiernan urged Sydneysiders to take a stand once more on March 1st on Clean Up Australia Day and help remove the tonnes of plastic bags and bottles that still pollute Sydney Harbour.
The pressure applied by Sydneysiders and Clean Up Australia since 1989 has led to:
- A ban on toxic anti-fouling paint being used on boats in 1989, which led to the return of oysters to Sydney Harbour.
- The end of cliff-face sewerage outfalls and raw sewage on Sydney’s beaches in 1991.
- 100 million litres of wastewater each year from Taronga Zoo’s animal enclosures and toilets no longer being dumped into the harbour after a Clean Up Australia initiative to build a recycling plant at the Zoo in 1993.
- More than $20 million being granted to local councils to stop stormwater pollution entering the harbour in 1997.
Millions of Australians have volunteered in Clean Up Australia Day, since it became a national event in 1990, and more than 220,000 tonnes of waste have been removed from the country’s beaches, waterways, streets and bushland.
Anyone can register for Clean Up Australia Day by visiting www.cleanup.org.au or by calling 1800 CUA DAY (1800 282 329).
Source: Clean Up Australia