Business Clean Up Day

By Rod Bruem


At an age when most campaigners are ready to hang up their boots, Australia’s most celebrated environmentalist Ian Kiernan is getting ready to go another round.

Ian KiernanIan says he’s worried the Premier will back down to intense lobbying from big business, particularly the soft drinks giant Coca Cola Amatil, despite giving a promise to go ahead with the scheme.

For the champion yachtsman, this fight is personal. Kiernan credits the container scheme in NSW when he was a boy to helping him save enough to buy his first sail boat.

“People called me the bottle pincher. I’d be watching people picnicking and then I’d swoop. I eventually saved up enough to buy the boat.”

Would today’s millennial generation of kids be motivated to pick up bottles in exchange for a 10c reward? Kiernan believes they would.

“There is an 85 per cent recovery rate in South Australia where the deposit scheme exists, while it’s below 30 per cent in all other states.”

Kiernan was sailing in the celebrated BOC Round the World yacht race in 1987 when the inspiration to clean up the planet first came.

“It was probably the first event of its type where competitors were encouraged to keep all their waste on board. Once we were out in the middle of the ocean it was shocking to see how much plastic and other pollution there was.”

Back home, he pulled together a willing group of volunteers to help organize his first clean-up event, “Clean Up Sydney Harbour” on January 8 1989.

It’s success sowed the seeds for the first “Clean Up Australia Day” in January 1990. By 1993 the movement started spreading worldwide.

Now, a quarter of a century on, the clean up events have spread to 130 countries and involved some 40 million people – seven million in Australia alone.

For his efforts, Kiernan has received multiple awards from around the world. Here he was given an Order of Australia in 1991, made Australian of the Year in 1994, and became an Officer of the Order of Australia in 1995.


Ian Kiernan’s Top 5

No surprises from this champion sailor – most of his favourite travel destinations are on the ocean

1 Sydney Harbour

Ian says, “It’s the finest harbour in the world”

2 Lord Howe Island

“Somewhere I’ve sailed to many times, it really is outstandingly beautiful”

3 Uluru

“It’s a beautiful big red rock, it’s like Australia’s brand”

4 Tasmania’s West Coast

“So many spectacular wild places, framed by a perfect blue ocean.”

5 Albany WA

“A magnificent town on the magnificent Southern Ocean”