More than 200 volunteers have gathered to clean up North Wollongong beach and its surrounding areas as part of World Clean Up Day.

The event, run by local not-for-profit organisations, was one of many that took place worldwide.

JCI Illawarra representative Kevin McDonald said he hopes the clean up will raise awareness about protecting our local environment.

“It’s set to be the biggest civic action in history,” Mr McDonald said.

“Short term, it’s great to get the trash out of our harbour and around the beaches, but the main aim of the event is bringing together likeminded people and starting conversations.

“We’re hoping that this is the start of a long-term collaboration.”

Environmental organisation Green Connect audited the waste gathered in a two-hour time period.

All up 246 kilograms of rubbish was handpicked from Wollongong’s beaches, including 117 plastic straws, 192 coffee cups and two deflated soccer balls.

The biggest issue was found to be cigarette butts, with a total of 4950 collected.

World Clean Up Day began 10 years ago as a social movement against illegal waste dumping in Estonia.

It has since become a global phenomenon, with over 15 million people participating internationally each year.

Green Connect spokesperson Kylie Flament said the world’s waste problems come from a lack of education about the harmful effects rubbish has on the environment.

Ms Flament said she hopes Wollongong will become Australia’s first plastic free city.

“I think Wollongong has this critical mass of sustainable people and organisations at the moment, so we’re really leading the way around Australia in many respects,”Ms  Flament said.

“Our aim is to get to zero waste, so we’re trying to get everything out of landfill.

“There’s a lot more that can be done and the movement is still building in the Illawarra, it’s really exciting.”

The driving force behind Wollongong’s change towards becoming more environmentally friendly is Plastic Free Wollongong, another of the not-for-profits that participated in the beach clean up.

The organisation’s goal is to reduce single-use plastics in the Illawarra by 70 per cent before 2020.

Plastic Free Wollongong will attend Yours and Owls music festival at Stuart Park later this month to keep the area clean and to raise awareness about living sustainably.