WWF and City of Iqaluit join forces for successful cleanup

Written by Rachel Theoret-Gosselin, Eastern Arctic Specialist  
For over two years now, I’ve been living in Iqaluit, the capital of Nunavut and site of one of this year’s northernmost Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup events! Iqaluit is a lovely city, located on the southern tip of Baffin Island, on the coast of Frobisher Bay. Every year the City of Iqaluit, the Government of Nunavut, the Government of Canada, and Nunavut Tourism host an Annual Spring Cleanup once the snow melts and reveals everything the long winter covered up, and for the second year WWF-Canada was happy to work with them to make it an official Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup event.

A map of the areas in town being cleaned up and a list of collaborators look a little damp after the snow! © Rachel Theoret-Gosselin

As is usually the case in the Arctic, the weather has a way of making its mark on any outdoor event. When I woke up the morning of June 19 for the cleanup, it was snowing! And not just a dusting, a full snowstorm that was staying on the ground. There was a little confusion as to whether or not we were going to be able to go ahead, but when the snow finally turned to a light drizzle just before 9 a.m., we were given the OK to get started.
Iqaluit, like any city, has its industrial areas and its urban areas. By the time I arrived at the site, it seemed like the industrial areas were covered, so I set to work with a handful of others to beautify our central business district. Armed with garbage bags and a pair of gloves, I got to work picking up the kinds of things you would expect on a main street: plastic grocery bags, food wrappers, cigarette cartons, and a LOT of coffee cups. We Iqalungmiut sure do love our caffeine!
Starting to see a clean river. Less garbage makes me happy! © Rachel Theoret-Gosselin
Starting to see a clean river. Less garbage makes me happy! © Rachel Theoret-Gosselin

Part of the reason why there was so much garbage to collect along the main route is that Iqaluit is in desperate need for more public garbage and recycling bins. There are less than a handful along the main route through town.
Another common find was children’s toys, which is likely linked to the unique northern weather. If kids forget to pick up their toys on their way inside for dinner, or accidentally leave their bicycle out overnight, a harsh rain or snowstorm will not be forgiving. It’s a hard lesson to learn for a lot of northern kids.
When the cleanup ended at noon, all volunteers were invited to a BBQ at the Nunatta Sunakkutaangit Museum, where both food and prizes (and garbage cans!) were plentiful. All in all the cleanup was a major success, and one WWF hopes to continue to be a part of. Along with being a part of the cleanup, we also donated a few prizes to thank volunteers, including some reusable grocery bags and thermal coffee mugs. Hopefully they’ll be put to good use and we’ll all have a little less to pick up next year!