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The Clean Arctic environmental project's second field season is over

27 october 2022

The Clean Arctic federal project held its second season's closing ceremony in mid-October on board the storied nuclear icebreaker Lenin in Murmansk. Dmitriy Lobusov, captain of the nuclear-powered ship 50 Let Pobedy and the project's initiator, congratulated the volunteers on the successful conclusion of the field season. He was the one who suggested two years ago that the Arctic undergo a "big cleaning" to rid it of trash remaining there from the Soviet period.

The Arctic veteran's initiative became public. Environmentalists, government and nonprofit groups, scientists, and the governors of Russia's Arctic regions all contributed to it. Norilsk Nickel, Rosatom, PhosAgro, and Russian Railways are the project's partners.

"I didn't even believe it at first when I discovered a year ago that such a large-scale, super-necessary initiative had been initiated by none other than myself. Today, I am overcome with delight, seeing that Clean Arctic is alive, and proud of the project's accomplishments," Dmitriy Lobusov said.

The last cleaning of the year was completed by the volunteers before calling it a season. On 16 October, they cleaned up the Arctic beach, a popular spot for Murmansk locals, and also got rid of an unlicensed dump in the Tri Ruchya neighborhood. Volunteers gathered and dumped 30 tonnes of trash during the day.

In just one season, 2,200 Clean Arctic volunteers in nine Russian Arctic regions cleaned up 110 hectares of land and hauled away 1,500 tonnes of trash. They processed about 1,000 tonnes of scrap metal for recycling in the Yakut settlement of Ust-Kuyga alone. Many tonnes of garbage, including broken bricks, rusted metal, glass, paper, and plastic, were collected along the shores of Lake Lindozero in Karelia. A cleanup also took place at the Pegtymel petroglyphs in Chukotka, a federal cultural heritage site. It is the sole piece of rock art in Asian Russia beyond the Arctic Circle, and it will finally be seen by tourists in its true form, free of the trash that used to frame it.

"I once spent a month near Lake Baikal, working as a travel agent, and I saw cows eating garbage on the container site. That picture struck me hard, and environmental and volunteer projects came into my life after that. Later on, I became a coordinator myself," explained Tatyana Damshchaeva, organiser of environmental volunteer projects.

The cleaning of Heiss Island in Franz Josef Land was one of the most technically challenging undertakings. Over a month and a half was spent in the field by four Clean Arctic volunteers, which included 21 days on Heiss Island. Over 50 tonnes of trash were collected and packed by them, ready to be transported to the mainland. The participants also collected water samples, allowing environmentalists to test them for the presence of microplastics.

The preparation for the third field season, to begin in May 2023, is well underway. The number of volunteers will top 5,000 the next year, while there were just 1,500 of them in the first year of the project.

The Friends of the Clean Arctic Club has already received over 300 applications, some of them coming from South Korean and Chinese volunteers. Beijing University students are even willing to cover all the costs for transportation to the site, meals, and required equipment. In order to obtain the needed funds, some of them have already found part-time jobs.

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