COP27, the 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference, firmly focused on the climate crisis, but pollution was also brought into the limelight in a fascinating fashion. Using 18.14 tonnes of salvaged plastic from the Nile River, this stunt signalled the birth of a plan to clean up the planet for the next 100 years.

The world’s largest plastic waste pyramid was revealed ahead of COP27, which was held in November in Sharm el-Sheik, Egypt. The unveiling marked the beginning of a movement called the “100YR Cleanup” – an initiative led by Australian startup Zero Co and the south Australian mission-led wine company The Hidden Sea. The mission is to fund large-scale clean-ups for the next 100 years and drive accountability for the problem of single-use plastics.

Erected in Egypt’s Western Desert, just outside of Cairo, the immense structure took five days to build, weighed more than 18 tonnes, was taller than a three-story building, and was made using the equivalent of one million plastic water bottles collected from the Nile River.*

In a display of collective action, consumers can sponsor the removal of “bundles of trash”, while businesses can be part of the game-changing initiative by contributing funds towards the 100YR Cleanup.

“Despite its epic size, the pyramid shows just a fraction of what is an incredible crisis. Powered by wine drinkers, The Hidden Sea has removed 18 million plastic bottles from the ocean so far; this demonstrates that consumers simply need a clear way to be part of the solution. This COP27, our message is clear. It’s time to draw a line in the sand and change how we manage the crisis. Those who have the ability, have the responsibility,” says Justin Moran, founder of The Hidden Sea, which removes plastic from the ocean every time a bottle of its wine is bought.

To personally mark the launch of 100YR Cleanup, founder Mike Smith camped out on top of the pyramid for three days to call for support from people and businesses to join the movement.

“We can’t fix the plastic problem alone, but we can give everyone the ability to take action. By working together with businesses and industry leaders and inviting the public to take direct action, we’ll be able to build a scalable solution to the problem and have a huge impact,” explains Smith.

Zero Co and The Hidden Sea aim to raise US$1 000 000 for the 100YR Cleanup by the end of this year, which will remove 15 million water bottles’ worth of rubbish and drive the initiative’s mission, year on year, for the next 100 years.

“We want to ensure that future generations have the opportunity to experience untouched wilderness in all its powerful forces. Whilst we inherit this planet from our ancestors, we also borrow it from our children,” Smith adds.

By sponsoring the 100YR Cleanup and buying a bundle of rubbish, individuals and businesses can contribute to future clean-ups around the world. With sufficient funding, the team hopes to build full-time crews in Southeast Asia and Australia to clean the planet five days a week, every week, every year, for the next 100 years.

* The plastic waste pyramid was built in collaboration with VeryNile (an organisation

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