Cleanup for Sarah — Global clean-up operations from June 12 on | Polarjournal
Last year, many people around the world took part in clean-up efforts to continue Sarah Auffret’s commitment. These efforts are to be continued this year. Photo: Julia Hager

In the period from June 12 to 21, 2020, people all over the world are called for a cleanup to be carried out on the commemoration of Sarah Auffret’s birthday, i.e. to rid nature of garbage. Sarah was the Environmental Agent of AECO and was killed in the tragic plane crash in Ethiopia on 10 March 2019 on her way to the UN Environment Assembly in Nairobi.

On PolarJournal, we have already reported several times about the increasing pollution of the Arctic and Antarctic with plastic. With each new study, scientists find larger amounts of plastic, more animal species affected, more serious impacts on ecosystems and plastics in places and regions where they had not been detected before.

The Polar regions are particularly fragile habitats and, in addition to pollution, are already struggling with other disasters such as global warming. Due to this, the two associations of tour operators in the Arctic and Antarctic AECO (Association of Arctic Expedition Cruise Operators) and IAATO (International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators) are committed to excluding additional pollution of the Polar regions by expedition cruising. In addition to the already strict waste disposal rules, they work to drastically reduce or eliminate the use of disposable plastic and microplastics on cruise and expedition ships in the Arctic and Antarctic. In addition, both associations have developed guidelines for passengers to avoid waste in the run-up to the journey, on board and during land crossings. The relevant measures will be developed, inter alia, through a partnership with the United Nations Clean Seas campaign.

The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) launched the Clean Seas campaign in February 2017 with the aim of involving governments, society and the private sector in the fight against marine plastic pollution. By 2022, the main causes of marine pollution are to be tackled by targeting the production and consumption of disposable plastics.

On the beaches in the north of the Svalbard archipelago, a lot of rubbish is washed up. Here, passengers on an expedition trip with Oceanwide Expeditions help to clear a beach on Phippsya from trash. Photo: Julia Hager

Anyone who has ever traveled with an expedition ship in the Polar north, especially around Svalbard, probably remembers the large amounts of washed-up (plastic) garbage on some beaches. Hardly any of the passengers can simply pass by and many come back to the landing site with arms full of plastic bottles, yogurt cups, huge foils, linen, nets or smallest crumbs of microplastics. Thus, a tour operator launched the Cleanup Svalbard campaign about 20 years ago, supported by the governor of Svalbard. Passengers on expedition ships help to remove three to four tons of trash from the beaches of Svalbard every season. The expedition company Oceanwide Expeditions even offers a special trip every year, in which, in addition to trips into the wild of Svalbard, the focus is also on collecting plastic and other garbage. On Svalbard, the collected waste is disposed of in a specially placed container in the port of Longyearbyen.

Garbage in the environment is a problem not only on remote beaches, but also in the environment on our doorstep, shown here at the Zamser Grund in Austria: the yield of a short hike from the Schlegeisspeicher to the Lavitzalm. Photo: Julia Hager

Sarah Auffret was responsible At AECO for the development and implementation of the environmental measures of expedition cruising in the Arctic. On June 16, her birthday, and in the days before and after, people around the world will clean up their surroundings during cleanup actions to commemorate and continue Sarah’s commitment. Because not only in the Arctic, where a travel ban currently is in place, but also in the environment on our doorsteps, we find carelessly disposed garbage. Many environmental groups and forest managers complain that even more rubbish is being left in the forests and meadows because more people are now visiting recreational areas thanks to the COVID crisis.

Sarah Auffret, who had worked for many years as a guide and expedition leader in Polar regions, began working at AECO for an effective and sustainable environmental policy within the expedition travel industry from May 2018 on. Within a very short period of time, she had achieved a retconsideration within many shipping companies and operators on their sustainability policy. In March 2019, Sarah was killed in the Ethiopian Air crash. Photo: Edda Falk, AECO

We at PolarJournal would also like to encourage our readers to clear their surroundings of garbage in the period from June 12 to 21 (and beyond of course) – be it on a favorite walking track, a river bank, a hiking trail in the forest, a beach or a mountain peak. Thereby, a recovery will be assured for the future. At best, your clean-up leaves not only a cleaner environment, but also a little more awareness among others and perhaps even the polluters. All you need is a bucket (or garbage bag) and (possibly reusable) gloves.

If you want to, you can enter your cleanup results in a map showing where in the world people are doing Cleanups for Sarah. Click here for the map.

A guide on how to enter your cleanup in the map:

Some cleanups are already registered. Click the pen in the upper right corner to add your action.
Find the area of your cleanup on the map and click on the marker at the top right, then select the exact location with a mouse click on the map.
An edit bar opens on the right and all you need to do is enter a name and a short description of your cleanup. When you’re done, just click ‘Save’ and the marker showing your cleanup is stored in the map.

In addition, you can post photos of your cleanup with the hashtags #cleanupforsarah and #polarjournal on Facebook or Instagram. However, you should not forget any social distancing rules or contact restrictions.

Sources: AECO, IAATO, UN Clean Seas, Julia Hager

AECO guidelines for passengers
AECO Guidelines on the Cleanup Svalbard Campaign
IAATO Guidelines for Passengers
Clean Seas Campaign of the United Nations Environment Programme

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