Another great effort for the environment: iGEN and World Cleanup Day 2023

On Saturday 16th September, iGEN held a cleanup as official participants of World Cleanup Day, and also in support of the Malta Ranger Unit NGO. Participating were 54 volunteers from iGaming and affiliated industries, plus family members and friends, at the Qalet Marku peninsula on the north coast of Malta at Bahar ic Caghaq.

This annual event unites people from all over the world, with the 6 year combined total of participants topping 71 million. This year a record 197 countries took part, in the world’s single largest peacetime civic action movement, and as official participants of World Cleanup Day our goal was to submit the total weight of collected rubbish for inclusion in their global databse.

We had a great turnout, especially considering were were also competing with Valletta Pride’s annual parade on the same day, and we had enough volunteers to cover the three main areas we had planned to tackle. Participating in the cleanup today were KPMG, William Hill/Mr Green, Internet Vikings, Synot Games, Betsson and NoID. The idea was to remove as much rubbish as possible to enable a reset of the area prior to the MRU taking more control over monitoring of Qalet Marku, in a new collaboration with ERA and the council.

The MRU chose to focus on Qalet Marku as it it has historically been the target for environmental illegalities such as dumping of building and household waste, illegal hunting and unchecked partying, and the widespread environmental destruction resulting from this. The MRU had been successful in bringing a number of prosecutions of infringements of the law carried out here, and word had begun to spread that this was now no longer being tolerated. Ironically, scouting by iGEN in the weeks leading up to the cleanup had shown that there was a significant increase in rubbish, while the MRU were abroad on an 800 km sponsored hike to raise funds for their activities. While the cat’s away….

We began gathering on the beach at 09:30, where we had raised our flag and had a cache of black bags – donated by CleanMalta – plus protective gloves, luggage scales and maps of the 3 main focus areas, with space to include information about the amount of rubbish collected. It was already warm and sunny, and we knew it was going to be a hot day, as the recent cooler weather was being replaced by a new high-pressure front driving the temperatures back up towards the 30° C mark.

‘Thank you to everyone who joined iGEN in this effort. Let’s keep the momentum going for a cleaner, healthier planet!’ – Anna Dobrovolskaya, Internet Vikings

We had a number of families with kids joining us, from Betsson, Internet Vikings and Mr Green, and they were soon happily occupied with cleaning the sandy beach area from the slipway towards the main road, and along the shore towards Qalet Marku. Soon the sound of excited voices were heard, as they discovered plastic spoons and food wrappers buried in the sand, and began placing them in the billowing bin bags. We divided the rest of the volunteers into two groups, and dispatched them along the coast road to the main Qalet Marku entrance, where we had placed a second flag at the pre-arranged CleanMalta rubbish collection point, together with a second cache of black bags.

KPMG took charge of the east side of the peninsula, clearing the shoreline and bushes of rubbish, while the rest of Mr Green took the west side, clearing the slope down towards the water. Internet Vikings took charge of the vegetation around the entrance to the the area, which was choked with wind-blown rubbish, while Synot Games headed into the central wooded area and began work. We had already noted the location of a number of larger objects for removal, and soon a dumped fridge-freezer was being emptied of trash by NoID, and with some more helping hands it was soon dragged out from the bushes to the dirt track.

As sacks were filled they were brought back to the collection point, and they were soon joined by many pieces of furniture such as a sofa, armchairs, carpets, a stove and the remains of a whole kitchen unit! As time wore on the heat steadily increased, and people sought what shade there was as they toiled on, and the pile of rubbish steadily grew. In among the trees people could be seen pulling out rubbish from the undergrowth, and sacks of trash were being carried on shoulders and backs up the hill towards the flag.

After two hours it had become unbearbly hot, and it was time to begin the task of tallying up the days cache, weighing the sacks and writing down the results, before heading back down to Las Palmas for some well-earned refreshments and the traditional after-cleanup mingle. Soon, bottles of iced water, fizzy drinks and cold beer were being grasped in sweaty hands by tired but happy volunteers, under the shade of the giant rubber tree in the Las Palmas courtyard, satisfied in the knowledge that we had done a good turn for the environment, but sad that it was needed in the first place.

When all was finally tallied up, we could be proud in the knowledge that we had removed 663.4 kgs of trash, which was soon added as our contribution to the official world total of 325,000 kgs for this amazing global initiative.