The Norwegian Retailer’s Environment Fund (Handelens Miljøfond) has awarded 500,000 NOK (≈ 53,000 USD) to secure AECO’s continued efforts to combat marine plastics pollution within AECO’s Clean Seas Project, which has been running since May 2018.
AECO members have been conducting beach cleanups for decades, and the secretariat has recorded thousands of passengers, staff and crew who have participated each season, since AECO began logging these efforts in 2018. Over the past two years, the waste reception facility in Longyearbyen has received 10,370 kg in total of collected waste cleaned by vessels all over Svalbard. Simultaneously, a survey shows that 90% of AECO’s operating members are committed to reducing single used plastics in their operations, which is also part of the project.
– When AECO members bring passengers ashore, they have an opportunity to make a difference by participating in beach cleanups, which gives their trip a different meaning. Several tons of marine litter has been removed this way, says AECO’s environmental specialist and project manager, Melissa Nacke.
Two years ago, AECO decided to step up the association’s efforts to combat marine plastic pollution by launching a “Clean Seas” project, which focuses on significantly reducing single-use waste on Arctic expedition cruise vessels, as well as information and knowledge sharing and research collaborations. The project is also associated with the United Nations Environment Program and their #CleanSeas campaign and has initiated the local “Clean Up Svalbard” forum where all major stakeholders involved in cleanup initiatives can share knowledge, ideas and experienced.
AECO’s Clean Seas project runs over several years and is co-financed by the Svalbard Environmental Protection Fund, the Norwegian Environment Directorate, Ship to Shore through 1% for the Planet and Cheesemans’ Ecology Safaris. However, AECO finances a significant part of the project as well through membership fees and member commitments, and due to the coronavirus crisis, AECO’s ability to provide this finance came in jeopardy.
“When the coronavirus crisis hit and revenues in the expedition cruise industry disappeared, so did the revenues for AECO and this project,” says Melissa Nacke.
– AECO is therefore very pleased with this grant from The Norwegian Retailer’s Environment Fund. It allows us to continue the project with greater impact, she concludes.