“I’ve collected 128 pieces of rope, there must be thousands of them,” Ina says.
Her hands are full of rope pieces of various lengths.
“I’ve picked up at least 360,” says one of her classmates as they both stuff the pieces into a nearly full garbage bag.
A lot of litter from the sea accumulates every year along the innermost beach in Austnesfjorden. Heaps of rope pieces, strips, ropes, cans and containers have stranded on the beach during winter. Much of the litter is infiltrated with seaweed. Groups of children and young people walk around with bags and registration forms, and pick up as much as they can. Barely an hour later, many of the pupils have filled the bags they received from Keep Norway Beautiful with large amounts of plastic. Some are able to register what they find, while others think the forms handed out to them are difficult. The cleanup job, however, is no problem at all. One of the daycare kids has nearly filled his bag, and he is not going to let a bag that is nearly larger than he is, stop him. Meanwhile, Erik and Thor-Jacob are more despairing where they sit on top of a heap of garbage they have collected. They have filled their bags to the brim, and have built a garbage pile of pipes, road markers, tires and ropes.
“Look at all this,” Thor-Jakob says.
“There is so much litter, we don’t have room for it in the bags. Where are we going to put it all,” Erik asks.
From the beach to the waste disposal plant
Fortunately, help is near. The Norwegian Society for Sea Rescue arrives with a boat which can be driven onto the beach, where all the litter will be loaded and transported to quay in Svolvær. Here, Lofoten waste company will be ready to transport it to the place it belongs, the waste disposal plant. Maria Antonsen at the Centre for Oil Spill Preparedness and Marine Environment has considerable experience with waste management. She believes it’s important that all beach cleaners contact a waste company before they start the cleanup.
The cleanup efforts by volunteers are formidable, however, it’s also important to remember that the litter must be transported from the beach to a recycling station. There is no point collecting it all in bags if the litter stays put. That’s why it is important that you contact your local waste company before you start a cleanup campaignMaria Antonsen, Centre for Oil Spill Preparedness and Marine Environment.
Plans don’t always go according to plan
Prior to the campaign, the Centre conducted a risk assessment, and focused on HSE and necessary training and equipment. The cleanup campaign was registered in an area which seemed manageable on the map. In reality, however, it turned out to be too large for the team of children and young people that the Centre had brought with them. The beach cleaners ended up working on a beach which was around 100 metres long. When the campaign was concluded, there was still a lot of litter left, and only mapping and cleaning of some remaining parts were carried out by the Centre’s own staff. Monika Kleffelgård Hartvigsen took part in the campaign on behalf of Keep Norway Beautiful, and has been involved in a substantial number of cleanup campaigns through Clean Up Lofoten. She has some important advice for everyone who cleans beaches.
“It’s better to clean one small area well, instead of cleaning a little here and a little there in a large area,” she says.
To her, the beach in Laupstadosen is an ordinary littered area, where most of the litter consists of small pieces. To the pupils and the teachers, however, the situation at the beach in their own neighbourhood is alarming. Just one year ago, the area was cleaned by local forces, and after a year, the need for cleanup is too great for a campaign consisting of children and grown-ups. Director Ann-Helen Ernstsen at the Centre for Oil Spill Preparedness and Marine Environment understands completely that the shear amount of litter was a lot to handle for the pupils.
It is frightening to see how much litter there is on a small piece of shore like this. There are so many tiny pieces. The important thing is to register and do something about the sources of the litter. To see the enthusiasm and commitment of the children who took part in the campaign is inspiring for us who are working to find solutions. It also shows how important and necessary it is to have volunteers helping us in the battle against marine litter.Ann-Helen Ernstsen, Centre for Oil Spill Preparedness and Marine Environment.