DUBAI // More than 42,000 volunteers helped to collect 191 tonnes of litter from 111 sites yesterday.
Businessmen, bankers, hospitality staff and labourers worked with government officials, schoolchildren and teachers at the annual "Clean Up UAE" event.
This was the 11th year the Emirates Environmental Group (EEG) has organised the campaign. Last year, 27,136 volunteers collected 97 tonnes of litter from 110 sites across the country.
"The massive support we receive each year is testament that Clean Up UAE has become a unifying campaign for all people of the UAE to work for environmental protection and conservation," said EEG chairwoman, Habiba Al Marashi.
"This campaign is our way of expressing our love and loyalty to the country."
More than 5,000 volunteers gathered in the Nad Al Sheba desert, where they scoured more than 5 square kilometres from 9am to 1pm to collect as much litter as they could.
"All the waste collected will be handed over to the municipality, who will then make sure it's all segregated and recycled," said Ali Ibrahim, an executive committee member of the EEG who was overseeing the Nad Al Sheba site.
In his commencement speech, Mr Ibrahim thanked all of the volunteers and sponsors, and encouraged them to "transform the UAE's image from a country with high consumption and carbon footprint, to a country that will lead by example in term of sustainable development and practices".
Eager schoolchildren scattered far and wide as soon as the commencement speech was over.
"We were very excited to be able to come here today and help make the country cleaner," said nine-year-old Sayyeda Sumaiya, who was there with her classmates from Our Own Indian School.
"People shouldn't throw rubbish everywhere, they should be more responsible. After all, this is our country. We all have to live here together."
It was the second year in a row that Roselle Castillo had taken part in Clean Up UAE.
"We had more volunteers this year," said Ms Castillo, 34, an operations coordinator from Abella.
"The management chose 35 people to participate here today. It's a very welcome break from the usual office work, and at the same time it's for a good cause.
"Our group collected more this year than last year. Although we hadn't set a goal, I think all of us wanted to do more this year."
Recycling has become an important activity in her home and at the office.
"We have an annual event focusing on recycling and what we can do as individuals to protect the environment," Ms Castillo said.
"I make sure to pass on all the knowledge I gain from them and make use of it at home."
Tufail Mohammed and his colleagues from Dubai Electricity and Water Authority thought they had collected more than many other groups.
"I filled up two rubbish bags myself and then we had to use teamwork to clear away large pieces of scrap construction material," said Mr Mohammed, 39, a senior electrician from Pakistan.
"Looking at the people around us, I think we got much more done than they did."
Ahmad Ragheb, an auditor for the Park Regis Hotel from Egypt, was participating for the first time.
"I thought there would be more litter. I guess this is not a very busy area, or maybe someone got to our area first," said Mr Ragheb, 39.
"There are a lot of participants here today. I didn't know there would be that many volunteers. Nonetheless, I'm very honoured to be here and lend a hand to a worthy cause."