25th June – Waste not want not

PictureScrap metal lined up for shipping in Pyramiden

I have been thinking about ‘waste’ and its value quite a lot while in Svalbard. Pyramiden one might think is an extreme example. However, though teaming with things that are no longer in use for their original purpose, there is a significant amount that is not in fact discarded or unwanted, either being valued as cultural history (for some) and embedded with memories and stories. Or, in the case of metal structures and machinery, being harvested for scrap metal to be sold when shipped out. Which is to say nothing of the relationship or potential conflict between the two…

More poignant perhaps then is the waste in Longyearbyen. There’s a reasonable amount of it, as in most modern consumer societies, but more so given almost everything is imported, coupled with a very fast turnover rate of the population. A lot of this waste gets exported (to be burnt in Sweden’s hungry energy production incinerators), some is recycled, but generally there is some widespread, low level grumbling about litter and waste here. It isn’t all bad though: As well as the fledgling Polar Permaculture with the beginnings of composting food waste, there is also a well-established ‘charity shop’, Bruktikken. This is not a charity shop in the sense that I am used to. There is so much stock that everything is given away for free and it is still bursting at the seams. There’s also a very active Facebook group for selling and exchanging items, just like most other places these days, but you can’t beat an old-fashioned rummage through a crowded shop…

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