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Alpine resorts prepare to clear the mess

Abfall in den Bergen Summit Foundation

“Don’t throw away your rubbish…just your bad habits” – a clear message is being sent from people who care about the environment that they mean business.

A project, which officially begins at the weekend of May 29-30, aims to show that while much of the snow has gone from high up in the Alps, there’s plenty of mess still lying around.

An increasing number of Swiss alpine resorts don’t just live from winter tourism and skiers, they rely on summer tourism too.

And they have to make sure that the mess left by tourists in winter is no longer there when the summer guests arrive. The resorts are, or will be soon be, picking up what people have thrown away.

The project to clean up the Alps is being run in coordination with Mountain Riders of France.

“The main objective is obviously to clean up the mountains and pick up as much rubbish as we can,” commented Thomas Allement, who is project leader of the Swiss section of the non-governmental organisation Summit Foundation.


“It’s obviously an advantage for our mountains and in particular for our Swiss ski resorts which are mostly affected by the rubbish.”

The second aim, which is just as important according to the organisers, is to wake up people to the problem of littering.

As Allement told, it’s difficult to put a figure on just how much rubbish is left on the mountains, but much is left at the bottom of the ski lifts where most people gather.

“You can find up to 30,000 cigarette ends at such places… and when you know that depending on where each one is it can pollute up to 500 litres of water, you can imagine the impact that has. And remember they can find their way into the intestines of fish, cows etc., it’s a whole ecosystem that’s affected.”

And as Allement points out, there is also the problem of glass, cans and plastic which take years to biodegrade.


Some Swiss resorts have already taken action, for example, Leysin in canton Valais. About ten people braved the elements on May 15 to tackle the problem.

“It was a very rainy and cloudy day. We couldn’t manage to look for litter where we wanted to because there was [still] too much snow and we had to go lower on the slopes, but still we had fun in finding it,” Benjamin Leroy-Beaulieu, secretary of environment organisation Ecologie Libérale told They found about 20kg of rubbish.

“We found ski sticks, bottles, cigarette butts, hair bands… as for the hair bands, we realise they are easy to lose… but we can certainly do more in telling people about throwing away cigarette butts.”

The Swiss are wasting no time in spreading the ecological message.

“At the end of summer, we’ll contact each resort to receive some kind of feedback with the approximate amount of rubbish that’s been collected, what it is exactly and the number of people who are taking part,” Allement said

What is really important for us is to inform people about what we’re doing. We don’t want to shock people [about the rubbish] but to make them aware of what is happening.

“The aim is that every year more and more people will take part… and they should know how to behave in the mountains.”

Robert Brookes,

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR