In this episode of Executive with a Cause, host Tammy Ven Dange chats with Pip Kiernan, Chair of Clean up Australia and their Managing Director, Terrie-Ann Johnson.

When Clean Up Australia’s founder, Ian Kiernan was shocked by the amount of litter pollution in Australian waters, he organised a local clean up. Over thirty years later, the organisation has become the country’s ‘largest community-based environmental event’, with partners including McDonalds, Coles and Sodastream.

Clean Up Australia has developed a valuable data source on waste trends over time. Their data now provides input for government policy on areas such as single-use plastics and the container-refund schemes whilst remaining accessible as they believe it “belongs to the community.”

Technological enhancements have also improved how they capture this data. The organisation’s ‘Citizen’s Science Project’ is an example of how the team increases volunteer engagement and responds to emerging waste trends.

We also discuss the importance of good partnerships and how Not for Profits should maximise the skills and resources these relationships can provide.

Thank you for listening to the Executive with a Cause podcast. Don’t forget to follow us on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you listen to podcasts.

IT in Plain English

It’s every project manager’s nightmare! Yet, blowing a project’s budget is, unfortunately, an all-too-common occurrence when implementing new IT systems. In this episode of “IT in Plain English”, Tammy provides some advice on how you can protect your bottom line, and still achieve your IT objectives by opting for a standardised system solution.

Sign-up here to subscribe to the “IT in Plain English” newsletter. You can submit your question to Tammy Ven Dange by messaging her on LinkedIn, and maybe she’ll answer it on the show.

 Topics from this episode:

  • 0.00 | Intro
  • 1.05 | The origins of Clean Up Australia
  • 2.20 | Different initiatives
  • 3.50 | The challenge of volunteers you never meet
  • 5.00 | Resources for participants
  • 6.44 | Generating funding
  • 7.00 | The evolution of Clean Up Australia
  • 9.50 Responding to domestic challenges
  • 11.10 Collecting and using data
  • 14.00 Storing data
  • 15.20 The Citizen’s Science Project
  • 18.50 Opportunities for better single-use design
  • 20.25 Pivoting to litter prevention
  • 26.10 Implementation of product alternatives
  • 28.40 Division of roles
  • 34.00 Succession planning
  • 39.00 Getting involved and closing
  • 42.45 IT in Plain English

Quotes from Pip Kiernan and Terrie-Ann Johnson in this episode:

“Every single organisation that partners with Clean Up Australia shares our vision on what we want to achieve. And they’re very much on the sustainability journey…so we very actively encourage them to share, not just their funds and networks, but also their skills. Because they have a massive bank of skills within their organisations. Every single one of them provides either knowledge or opportunity or people to make things happen”

“It’s a behavioural change as well that leads right down to the consumer. Each of us can make a more informed choice about the alternatives that we want to adopt, that best suits our lifestyle”

“It is about partnership. It’s about joining together because you have a shared vision and also making that happen. So it’s not just about delivering a whole heap of benefits for someone who gives you a cheque. It’s more about what are we going to achieve together during the time we have the privilege of working together”

“The’re (partners and board members) actively engaged in the organisation and very committed…everyone I’ve worked with has been prepared to get down and get in there, and that’s the vital thing”

“We’re available 24/7, and we can help them at any point in time to ensure their clean-up is as productive and as fun as possible”

“They’re a bio-bag that we specially commissioned. They’re very thick, about the thickness of a David Jones or Myers bag, and they’re made out of cornstarch and potato starch that withstand ripping and tearing”

“The way we do it has evolved as well. The early one was very much bring your own gear to the Sydney Harbour event, and over time it’s evolved in that we’re now providing those resources to the groups to help with their efforts”

“In the early days you had to send in a physical, handwritten registration form to tell us where you were cleaning up, and we had mountains and mountains of paper all the way around the office, and we had huge maps that we would put little red dots on where all the locations were. And that was the only way we had a sense of the scope of what we were doing. Now it’s electronic, so everything is digitised. They now register online. We send materials, if they don’t want hard copy paperwork it’s all electronically dispersed to them. We collect data from people through online processes, so you can tell us all about your cleanup – how many volunteers, what you found, what exciting things happened and photos. So it’s a lot more immediate with the dispatch and receipt of information. And the engagement with volunteers is a lot cleaner and clearer”

“The beauty of what we do is we can support communities all through the year. And we know from the floods last year with the Hawkesbury that there is a time, usually around 6-8 weeks after the flood event that they can see where the litter has collected, and they want that concerted help from the community to help clean up those hotspots”

“It’s vital information, and the other key thing for us is that we are very conscious that this data that has been collected for over thirty years belongs to the community. And so we provide it free of charge to anybody that wants it”

“What we’re finding is the trends over the year. So we can see, tell and share the direct impacts of the implementation of the container refund scheme”

“We lose those plastics, and we lose those metals and the valuable components that are no longer in the environment. They’re actually back in the recycling and resource recovery scheme. And that’s what’s vitally important to us”

“We have evolved over time in terms of the categories that we are reporting on to reflect what our volunteers are collecting. So now particularly through the pandemic, we’ve started collecting information around the pandemic waste. So around masks, and more single-use items. And we’re seeing a trend towards e-cigarettes and nangs. So as our behaviour changes, so too does what ends up as litter”

“We are working to move away from a linear approach and designing for a circular approach where we’re thinking about how do we get these resources again at their end of life?”

“This was what my father was talking about 33 years ago, the need to think of waste as a resource. We can’t think of waste as something we toss in the ground and it’s a problem for future generations. We need to think of everything as a resource and how can we design it so we can get maximum life out of it, and then capture it and reuse it again. That’s a really important part of our work”

“Everything we do is about practical action, and empowering the community and giving the community a sense of hope that it’s the small steps we take together that will lead to great change”

“There’s no hierarchy at Clean Up, it’s very egalitarian and we all pitch in and help one another out. So it’s important for us that we all understand how things operate, and what needs to be done to ensure that our volunteers, whenever they call in or need us, get the best advice and practical assistance that we can give them, whoever they talk to”

Links & Resources


Thanks to our Producer, Nick Whatman, and the entire team at Lonsdale St. Studio. Thanks also to our Digital Content Creator, Laura Kleinrahm.

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