The Saami Council and its member organization and local partner, OOSMO, have been leading the Kola Waste project since April 2018. The project was supported by the Ministry of Natural Resources of the Murmansk Region and by the Arctic Council’s Arctic Contaminants Action Program (ACAP) Working Group. The project has been financed by Norway and Sweden within the work of ACAP’s Indigenous Peoples’ Contaminants Action Program (IPCAP EG).

The goal of the project was to map local sources of possible pollution (waste dumpsites), clean up previously mapped abandoned and unauthorized dumpsites, and, thus, contribute to a better environment for the Sámi communities of the Kola peninsula (Russian Federation). Part of the project has been to raise awareness of the risks of pollution from unauthorized dumpsites and prevent appearance of new dumpsites, and to engage local population, including youth.

During the inventory phase of the project in 2018, OOSMO conducted an inventory of abandoned and unauthorized dumpsites in the areas of residence of the Sámi people: in the Lovozersky, Kovdor, and Tersky districts and partially in the Kola district. As a result, 43 previously known and unknown unauthorized dumpsites were identified and documented. Unauthorized dumpsites near the villages of Revda and Krasnoshchelye were identified as priorities.

The following results have been achieved during the primary clean-up phase:

  • The clean-up activities started in the summer season of 2019. Planning, meetings with local and district administrators, and telephone calls to prepare the clean-up in Revda took place in July and August 2019. Lovozero- Zhilservice Limited Liability Company took on the task to backhaul the waste to an authorized landfill. The total of 3 tonnes of construction and household waste, and 3 tonnes of scrap metal were collected, and the clean-up of the dumpsite was completed in September 2019.
  • This work was followed by a clean-up of a large unauthorized dumpsite near Krasnoshchelye. An excavator, a bulldozer, a tractor, a car with a trailer, snowmobiles, and about 20 people were involved in the work. In addition, at the request of the local community, two smaller dumpsites near Krasnoshchelye were cleaned up: on the Ponoi River bank and in a nearby forest. These dumpsites had not been identified during the inventory phase in 2018. Waste backhaul from Krasnoshchelye was carried out by winter roads on caterpillar vehicles in winter, the total of 15 tonnes of waste collected from the three dumpsites in Krasnoshchelye were backhauled to an authorized landfill in Lovozero.
  • In general, about 30 tonnes of waste, including plastic waste, were collected for further disposal in 2019. Besides, about 5 tonnes of scrap metal were collected and staged.
  • In spite of COVID-19 pandemic, the clean-up continued in 2020, and a total of 66 tonnes of waste was collected from waste dumpsites in Lovozero, Revda and Krasnoshchelye.

In the inventory phase of the project, OOSMO entered into cooperation agreements with local and district administrators, which was an important momentum for achieving the project objectives. In cooperation with the local authorities, the project was implemented in a timely, efficient, and safe manner. It has also been crucial to have the local Sámi communities involved in the project. Only with their involvement the project team was able to identify the most critical and time-sensitive sites for the clean-up.

It was obvious that the project was highly welcomed by the local communities, as the waste issue had been bothering them for a long time but could not be addressed due to lack of capacity and resources. To build a long-lasting capacity on proper waste management to prevent littering and appearance of new unauthorized dumpsites in the communities in the future, OOSMO organized training and awareness-raising for local residents.

The Saami Council keeps the waste clean-up on the Kola Peninsula as a high priority and is planning to continue this work in 2021 as well. These activities will benefit a new ACAP project "Solid Waste Management in Remote Arctic Communities", which is a circumpolar project strengthening capacity for environmentally sound solid waste management across Arctic communities.