Kickoff for the Clean Up Iceland project, a collaboration between AECO, The Blue Army, Gára and the Icelandic Coast Guard

Kickoff for the Clean Up Iceland project, a collaboration between AECO, The Blue Army, Gára and the Icelandic Coast Guard (Image at - March 2023)AECO’s members have done cleanups on Svalbard for over 20 years with great success. Starting with this kickoff, AECO expands the project to Iceland – while supporting the great work of The Blue Army, says AECO’s Head of Operations, Melissa Nacke.

The Kickoff gathered expedition cruise operators that are members of the Association of Artic Cruise Operators (AECO), project partners, the Environment Agency of Iceland, Cruise Iceland and other stakeholders representing local communities.

Positive participants

Important topics such as reporting according to OSPAR and EU standards were on the agenda, presented by Sóley Bjarnadóttir from the Environment Agency of Iceland.

Hekla Jósepsdóttir representing the Icelandic Coast Guard says that they are positive to being part of the efforts. With their resources and time, the Coast Guard provide valuable assistance in cleanups and have been involved in similar efforts since 2014.

“We need to rethink trash”

Tómas J. Knútsson from The Blue Army opened the event with a summary of his 28 years of combating marine litter.

He thinks that involving tourists offers a unique opportunity to expand the efforts as well as adding an educational element.

– We need to rethink trash, and think of it as valuable material in a circular economy, Knútsson remarked on the topic of the public’s attitude towards marine litter.

– Every piece of litter we pick up is a win, says Tudor Morgan, VP of Sustainability and Industry Relations at Hurtigruten Expeditions.

He further emphasizes the importance of gathering data through reporting.

– Education is key, data is evidence and evidence can inform decisions and policy, says Morgan and continues:

– AECO strongly believes in collaborations, and I am thrilled to see the cruise industry, public entities, private landowners, and volunteers gathered to unite their efforts.

“Opportunity for joined forces”

AECO members are obligated to follow strict guidelines for nature, communities, wildlife and more. In addition, many guests on expedition cruise ships are interested in sustainable tourism.

– The cleanups are a great arena to facilitate this. The project also aims at finding opportunities for visitors and locals to join forces in beach cleanups, says AECO’s Executive Director, Frigg Jørgensen.

What is Clean Up Iceland?
A project where the expedition cruise industry involves passengers in cleaning shorelines to combat marine litter. It also aims at bringing tourists and locals together for beach cleaning events and create community engagement.

The cleanups will only take place in areas where permission has been obtained from the local government, port authority or landowners. Beaches that need cleaning in these areas have been identified.