The Blue Army (Blái herinn) is an informal organization founded by sport diver Tómas J. Knútsson from Sandgerdi, southwest Iceland. He was disgusted by all the rubbish in Iceland’s harbors and elsewhere and didn’t want visitors to see the mess.
A lighthouse on Reykjanes near Sandgerdi. Photo by Páll Stefánsson.
Knútsson uses an old blue army truck with a boom in front and a platform in the back to remove larger pieces of rubbish from beaches, such as the heavy remains of fishing nets, Morgunbladid reports.
When Knútsson moved back home after living abroad in 1995 he founded a sport diving school. With his students, he tidied up the areas where they were planning to dive and before long the Blue Army was established and his family members enlisted.
In 16 years, the Blue Army has removed 875 tons of rubbish from Iceland’s nature, mainly on Reykjanes peninsula but also in the Westman Islands in the south and Akranes in the west. They have devoted 48,000 hours of voluntary work to the project.
Their work is sponsored by various companies, associations and institutions, including Toyota, Reykjanesbaer, Reykjaneshöfn, Pokasjódur, Althingi, Hitaveita Sudurnesja and the Blue Lagoon.
“The municipalities have also been very good about giving me money for certain projects,” Knútsson said. “If I see a whole area that I want to clean I take pictures and send it to the person or municipality who owns it and ask for permission and whether they intend to keep it this way. They usually agree.”
“I try to be subtle about it and raise people’s awareness. If that doesn’t do and no one listens for a long time I sometimes send these pictures to the papers. That serves as encouragement,” he added.
The Blue Army has also been assisted by sports associations “and volunteers like SEEDS who get foreign kids to come and do all sorts of voluntary work in Iceland,” Knútsson said, mentioning that he might expand into tourism.
“I’m thinking of organizing special rubbish walks for people who are interested in supporting the cause,” he concluded.