Rewarding rubbish: 140 trash cleanup volunteers collect tons of old sleds, dead Christmas trees and other odd stuff


There were things like old kicksleds and dozens of wood pallets that show Longyearbyen is a bit of an odd community. And then there were things that were just odd.

About 140 people picked up tons of trash ranging from dead Christmas trees to styrofoam bits to construction debris during a citywide cleanup on Tuesday. Items like the pallets that are commonly used for snowmobile parking are common signs of the lifestyle in the world’s northernmost town, but other debris revealed lifestyle choices that left some residents cold.


Emil Porcires shows off a collection of what look like five-kroner coins, but are actually debris from fireworks. Photo by Marcos Porcires.

“I’m quite embarrassed about it,” wrote Ellen Solbakken in a Facebook post after helping clean up her residential complex on Vei 232. “Outside the walls here we have picked up everything from ladies’ thongs to used condoms to thousands of cigarette butts and dirty diapers.  sneakers. I know that this is a high-traffic area at these apartments, but it must be possible to put things in the trash.”

While the cleanup was one of those “good deeds are their own reward” things (although participants gathered on the beach for hot dogs and a bonfire afterward), one kid found a bounty of “riches.” Marcos Porcires, a technician at The University Centre in Svalbard, posted a photo of his son Emil surrounded by what looked like five-kroner coins (spoiler: they were merely the remnants of fireworks).

“(They were) in about a 10 square-meter area below the hotel,” the father wrote. “There are still hundreds of them left.”

Organizers said four full dumpsters and at least trailer loads of trash were collected during the day.