Net’Leman, organized by the Association for the Safeguard of Lake Geneva (ASL), aims to clean up the shores of Western Europe’s largest lake as well as raise awareness of the damage done by littering, ASL’s Adrien Bonny told The Local.
“The first is to clean the lake and make it cleaner and prettier so we can have a lake in good health and not have it get too polluted. The other reason is to raise public awareness, to show them the importance of the lake.”
Since it began in 2005, volunteers have collected more than 100 tonnes of rubbish, with last year’s event offering up, among other things, 160 plastic bottles, 54 cigarette lighters and 25 golf balls, ASL’s general secretary told the press on Tuesday.
More bizarrely, past clean-ups have also uncovered a safe, pistols, grenades, mobiles telephones and – appropriately for Switzerland – a Rolex watch, Bonny told The Local.
This year’s clean-up focuses on plastic, highlighted as a particular problem in Lake Geneva in a study by Lausanne’s technology institute EPFL.
Speaking to news agencies on Tuesday, national councillor Guillaume Barazzone said the amount of plastic rubbish is down to the fact that it’s produced in the first place.
“I launch an appeal to large supermarkets to reduce their packaging and put an end to plastic bags,” he said.
“In the rubbish that we take out of the lake, a good portion of it is plastic,” added Bonny to The Local
“The problem with plastic is that it’s not biodegradable. Plastic only breaks up into pieces, smaller and smaller, and then it gets into the food chain, animals eat it.”
Net’Leman will take place all around the lake, with rubbish collections staged in Geneva, Rolle, Pully, Lutry, Bourg-en-Lavaux, Vevey, Bellevue and even Evian-les-Bains in France.
To meet its aim of raising public awareness of the issue, Net’Leman will also stage a number of activities relating to rubbish and recycling in a temporary ‘village’ in Geneva’s Jardin Anglais, which is free to attend.
Events around the lake will also include birdwatching sessions, paddleboarding initiations, games for kids and even workshops showing participants how to make art from driftwood.
Anyone over the age of six can take part (those under 12 should be accompanied by an adult, says the ASL), while the association also welcomes experienced divers and paddleboarders to offer their services.
Clean-ups also regularly take place in the summer months in Switzerland’s alpine regions, with many organized by Summit Foundation.
Among those scheduled for this summer are operations in Nendaz, Grindelwald, Laax, Saas-Fee and Bettmeralp.