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Trash cleanup to bring lucky few to Spitsbergen's north shore
Drawing on June 1 open to Svalbard residents
Volunteers pick up trash from a northern Spitsbergen shore during the 2008 cleanup. Photo by Halvard Pedersen.

It's not hard to imagine the ecstasy of a garbage man winning the lottery. But how about winning the lottery to be a garbage man?

For those living in Svalbard, that can also be a dream come true.

A drawing selecting 24 volunteers to spend three days picking up trash on the shores of northern Spitsbergen this summer is scheduled shortly after the entry deadline of June 1. Nearly 140 residents entered last year's drawing, said Halvard Pedersen, an environmental protection supervisor in the Svalbard governor's office.

"You need to be in all right physical shape and 18 or older," he said. "Also, people who have joined us before are being separated out. We want as many (new) people as possible to join this operation overall."

This is the tenth year of cleanups, with about 800 cubic meters of trash collected along 275 kilometers of shoreline, according a report from the governor's office.

"It is still waste from fishing boats that dominate, with yarn balls, plastic/metal, fish boxes, plastic cans, household waste such as bottles, plastic and glass, other plastic packaging, shoe soles and other objects," the report notes (as translated by Icepeople). Volunteers also found larger items such as trawl bags that kill dozens of reindeer whose antlers are trapped in them.

There may be extra urgency for those interested to enter this year, since most of the polluted shoreline appears to be cleaned up, Pedersen said. The governor's office has also implemented stricter regulations to reduce waste washing ashore and "we may rethink our plans next year" as a result.

"We don't have so many shorelines where this is such a problem," Pedersen said.

Two groups of 12 volunteers will be deployed this summer. The first, scheduled Aug. 2-5, will travel to the pickup area by ship and return on the helicopter that brings the second crew. The second crew is scheduled to work Aug. 5-9 and return by ship. Applicants must be registered residents of Svalbard. They are asked to rank their shift preference and declare if they are able to serve as a guard against polar bears.

An online application and more information about the pickup is available in Norwegian at An English translation is available here.

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