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Cleaning up Slovenia in One Day

Motto: fellowship and teamwork.

Slovenia is one of the most bio-diverse countries in the world. Slovenians took part in an international incentive known as 'Let's do it world!' and broke all-time record . The idea of 'Let's do it' actions is to organize major clean-up action in one country in one day and all the people can join in and help to clean up illegal waste dumps.

Slovenia is a member state of the European Union and has 2 million inhabitants. Officials counted more than 250.000 people, who showed up at the meeting spots throughout the country on the morning of 17th of April 2010. Result: A quarter of a million Slovenians gathered 80.000 cubic meters of garbage; but the best thing is that companies and municipal authorities also jumped in and contributed around 1000 trucks, that were roaring down the roads and transporting garbage from cleaning spots to garbage processing and recycling centres all over the country. On the same day, a bit further up to the northeast of Europe, another 100.000 people did the same thing in Lithuania.

What follows is a translation of a report about the cleaning day from the newspaper and a website Dnevnik , the second largest newspaper in Slovenia.



The crowd of volunteers, plastic bags and gloves in hand, arrived at the designated meeting point in Ljubljana earlier than scheduled. Like at other designated meeting points also in Jezica, on the outskirts of Ljubljana (editorial note: capital city of Slovenia), there were many more volunteers than the organizers expected. The morning announced a sunny day. The Motto: fellowship and teamwork.

'Does anyone have another pair of gloves?' Some of the volunteers asked unknown people around them. 'Yes of course. I brought few pairs of gloves just in case', was usually the answer.

'What would you do to the man who brought this rubbish to the bank of Sava river?' said Nejc Visocnik with indignation when he pulled from a heap, covered with soil, bands of multicoloured cloth. 'This will never end' the girl beside him added. 'I remember, when I was younger, the bank was much cleaner. But then I saw the expansion of illegal waste dumps. Today it is a wonderful day, because I can help to clean some of them', said Jan Dobnikar.

When a group of ten people were picking up bands, which had been thrown away unscrupulously, and put them into rubbish bags, they came across an obstacle of bricks. 'We can find a way to clear it. A few meters away I've just seen an excavator; I am going to fetch it', the third person said. And the excavator came soon. The owner of the excavator was a man who lived nearby and was part of the cleaning action as well. And he was ready to help to get rid of the bricks. His excavator pushed away the bricks and more bands of cloth came to light. The group of people launched in like ants in the hole to dig up the bands and put them in the rubbish bags. When the rubbish bags were full, volunteers stowed them beside a path where cars with trailers loaded them and drove off. It seemed as if only young people participated in cleaning action. Actually, among a crowd of younger people there were about a dozen of older people.

It was said that the action would be finished at 2 p.m., but the volunteers who cleaned the banks of river Sava got rid of the rubbish an hour before and they went to the bathing site at Laguna, where they could smell cevapcici and grilled sausages, prepared by the organizers. The cleaning action was very successful. For example at Nove Jarse, another neighbourhood on the outskirts of Ljubljana, the volunteers gathered 180 bags of rubbish; in Jezica 200 bags were counted. So it means that each volunteer filled up 3 rubbish bags. This was the estimation of Peter Groznik, one of the organizers and the representative of a sponsor.


Eight children of family Novak in fight for cleaner environment

Prebacevo is a small village near the town of Kranj (editorial note: northern Slovenia) and young and old people took part in the effort to create cleaner surroundings. The group included one of the largest families in this north-west part of Slovenia. 'There are eight children in our house and they are all participating in the action. The youngest can't do a lot, but he wants to be part of the action!' Janez Novak said, while he was driving a new pile of rubbish loaded on his tractor.

Everywhere it was the same pulse of people. The participation was the largest in Cerklje, a town situated immediately below the popular Krvavec ski centre. Also, our readers came to clean a forest in the northwestern part of Ljubljana: 'Every path in the forest leads to an illegal waste dump. I am happy that so many people came. More than 150 people came to help, that is really a lot', Anton Pugel said. Robert Zevnik, from the daily newspaper Dnevnik, confirmed that the response of the people was excellent and soon there were no more T-shirts sent by Dnevnik for the participants. 'Employees of Dnevnik and our readers have clearly proven that they are not indifferent about the environment', Zevnik said. This was confirmed by a six year old girl, Sara Osojnik, when she brought a bag full of rubbish. She was cleaning the dirty forest northwest of Ljubljana with her parents Rada and Marko. 'We found that', she said as she showed reporters an old tire. Members of the Forestry society Kranj showed us, during the time of a well deserved tea break, a pit full of rubbish brought there by somebody who was obviously an electrician. 'There is all sorts of rubbish. Ten members of our Forestry society have a lot of work to do here — and it is only on one place', Matjaz Gucek said.

Hobby fishermen participated in the cleaning action as well.

Very early in the morning, a few minutes after 7 a.m., the members of a Fishing club of Koroska (editorial note: a region in northern Slovenia, on the Austrian border) dispersed on the banks of three important rivers in Koroska. If they had wanted to clean all of the river banks, a total of about 500 kilometres, they would have needed not only more volunteers, but also special equipment. Namely, some banks are easily accessible only for those who want to get rid of rubbish, but because of the steep ground and dense shrubbery these banks were not accessible for fishermen who wanted to pick up the rubbish.

Each fisherman, individually or in teams of two, tried to come through the shrubbery, some of them in boots in order to reach the rubbish in the shallow part of the river. They worked with such enthusiasm that at first they didn't even speak to each other. The first rubbish bags were full before 9 a.m. when other volunteers came who hadn't woken up so early. At that time it was already clear that it would be possible to clean only the left river banks, but the right river banks could not be cleaned. 'In the next days there will be people who chose not to join us in this action and they will criticize us and say that we did nothing at all', the secretary of the Fishing club of Koroska, Robert Preglau said. His father Mirko Poglajen, a fisherman for 45 years, told us that about 300 hobby fishermen from Koroska participated in the cleaning action. 'We clean every year. If we didn't clean every year, there would be so much rubbish on the riverbanks that people wouldn't dare anymore to come to the river anymore. It is sad that people throw rubbish on river banks and in rivers. It seems that they still think that man should throw in the river the items that he cannot keep in the house, because the water drives away all things', Mirko Preglau said. Another fisherman added: 'It is difficult to teach adults; with children it is easier. We should begin to teach children already in kindergarten how to protect the environment.'

Near the power station two experienced fishermen, Martin Strmsek in Miha Jazbec piled the rubbish in an old boat, leaking water. They gathered so much rubbish that Martin was worried that the boat could not bear the cargo. They wanted to get the boat to the other side of the river Drava which comes from Austria. They confessed that it might be possible that the fishermen would have to leave some rubbish on the river banks as well. But they were pretty sure that they hadn't thrown a colourful umbrella in the river Drava, neither a wedding bouquet that Miha waved around joyfully before throwing it in a rubbish bag. Later, when fishermen were resting in the building of their fishing club, they were also talking about the weapons and tanks that were hidden below an old bridge on the river Drava .


They hid rubbish under the soil

On a sunny Saturday morning people who live in the Posavje region at the river Sava also participated in the cleaning action. 'When driving few kilometres to come here I was really touched to see so many people on the nearby roads and in the fields, with bags in hand, who were looking for rubbish and picking it' Tina Ogorevc Pavlin told us. But at the same time she was very disappointed because a few days ago somebody, probably an undertaking or a business, not an individual, had covered with soil an illegal waste dump full of builder's joinery and rubbish from a construction site. They had used a bulldozer in order to hide the traces of their ugly doings.

'The environmental inspectors should punish them', said Jani Tiller, the organizer of the cleaning action near the Sava river in the eastern part of Slovenia and member of the Ecological society, Water World. Before the rubbish had been covered with soil he personally had reported this illegal waste dump to the inspectors, but they didn't respond. The fishermen who fish at this location say that they have often seen trucks pull up, dump their rubbish in the water, and drive away.

In the Posavje region, an area of about 44 hectares was cleaned by about 55 men and women, mostly young people. This group of participants had a sort of international status because among them were individuals from the Dominican Republic and Croatia. 'I heard about the cleaning action while visiting my Slovene friends in the town of Brezice and without hesitation I decided to take part. I am convinced that as many countries as possible should organize such cleaning actions, including my country, Croatia', said Tajana Radulovic, a law student from the coastal town of Pula.

Mr. Janez Potocnik , European Commissioner for the Environment (editorial note: Slovenia has one commissioner in the European "government" and it is the commissioner for the environment), who participated in the cleaning action near Kranj, proposed the idea of an all-Europe clean-up for 2011. He said: 'The environmental organisations are the only ones who can mobilize so many people regardless of the borders between countries. We should think about similar cleaning action on the European level.'


One final note from the Editor:

Have we finally figured out how to take action? And if it can happen in Europe, can we make it happen all over the world? Two ordinary people got together and dreamed this up; if their example inspires you to do great and wonderful things in your corner of the world, here are a few tips from the people who organized the Slovenian Clean-Up Day:

"A big reason why the clean-up action in Slovenia was a success is due to the way the organizers took advantage of the internet. They developed their own software and blended already available options for:

- Participant application

- Locating the illegal garbage dumps in the special registry on the internet (people could choose in that registry where it would be easiest for them to join and clean on a designated day)

- Volunteer group management

- Information dissemination

- Trucks, authorities, police, officials coordination

- Media strategies

- And much more…


Footnotes and Links:

Link to the Original articles: Let's clean Slovenia in one day! www.dnevnik.si/novice/izpostavljeno/146