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Young volunteers in Helsinki aim for 130 km of trash-free coastline

The main motivation for the project was not initially environmental concerns, but to get people into the great outdoors.

Påse full med skräp från stranden
Volunteers had cleaned up 10 km of Helsinki's coastline by Thursday afternoon. Image: Elis Henell

A group of young residents in Helsinki have started what they hope will be a youthful, grass-roots effort to help clean up 130 km of the city's coastline.

Eeva Puustjärvi is the coordinator of an effort dubbed Satakolkyt (roughly "One hundred thirty"), which aims to rid the city shoreline of all trash, and encourages residents to join in to help.

The cleanup progress can be tracked on a map on the group's website (in Finnish).

Those who wish to join in the effort are invited to visit the site and enter the stretch of beach they plan to tidy up. Then, the corresponding markings on the map turn from red to yellow. When the area has been cleaned, volunteers check into the site again, and the marking turns to green.

The site showed that 10 km of coastline had been cleaned up - and nearly half a million steps had been taken by volunteers - by noon on Thursday.

Story continues after photo.

Susa Österlund-Toivonen och Eeva Puustjärvi sitter på en strandklippa på Drumsö
Susa Österlund-Toivonen och Eeva Puustjärvi. Image: Elis Henell

Susa Österlund-Toivonen, manager of the youth unit for environmental activities at the City of Helsinki, was one of the initiators of the project and said that the idea wasn't actually inspired by concerns about the environment.

"We wanted to reach out to youth groups in the area and get them to head into the nice nature areas we have here. Cleaning up the beach sounded like an obvious project that would contribute to young people's and the Gulf of Finland's health," Österlund-Toivonen said.

Puustjärvi, Österlund-Toivonen and about a dozen other young adults spent some time on a recent sunny day on the island district of Lauttasaari, filling bags with trash found along the beach.

One of the volunteers was Mia Salomäki, who runs a local summer club for the Finnish Red Cross. She said that the young people in her group came up with the idea of cleaning up beaches themselves.

Puustjärvi said she hope to give residents a chance to familiarise themselves with the city's beaches, saying that joining in the cleanup effort also offers volunteers an educational and pleasant experience.

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