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Not so pristine The divers who clean up Swiss lakes

Sky blue with mountains reflected on the water: Swiss lakes are tourist attractions, ideal spots for a scenic stroll and…a convenient garbage dump. This contradiction has motivated a group of divers to combine their passion with protecting the environment.

In a few years, the members of the SUATexternal link association have fished out thousands of tonnes of waste: car batteries, mopeds, furniture, fridges, tyres, bikes, cans, and plastic and glass bottles.

“Almost 80% of the debris are bottles and other waste that people chuck into the water,” says SUAT founder and president Thomas Niederer. “For me, cigarette butts are the worst, as they sink to the bottom and poison the fish.”

Founded in 2010, SUAT now has around 50 active members who are experienced divers and regularly take part in the lake clean-up drives. Around 20 guest divers also lend a hand from time to time and a similar group was founded in Austria four years ago.

“Collaboration with public authorities is going well,” adds Niederer. This was not the case in the beginning. “The municipalities provide us with dumpsters and we now easily get the special permission required for our vehicles to access the lake.”

(Photos: Dominic Büttner/Lunax, in Hergiswil on Lake Lucerne. Text: Andreas Keiser/swissinfo.ch)

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