Voi partner Hands2Ocean is cleaning up the seabeds of Sweden, and planning to expand internationally

Jun 12, 2024

Voi’s partner Hands2Ocean have been cleaning up the seabeds of Stockholm for the past six years. Now, the volunteer diving organisation plans to expand across Sweden, and beyond. We had a chat with founder Fredrik Johansson about diving, e-scooters and why everyone should care about reducing ocean litter.

Earlier this week, a team of volunteers, including six Voi employees, gathered in Uppsala to retrieve waste from Fyrisån, a river that runs straight through the centre of Sweden’s fourth-largest city. The rescue event was led by Hands2Ocean (H2O), a Stockholm-founded non-profit organisation aiming to clear Sweden’s waters from toxins, as well as raising awareness about the widespread issue of littering in our beautiful and fragile aquatic environment.

"Without water there is no life on this planet, we need to value this resource. For far too long, we’ve been poisoning our bodies of water with waste, it’s time to take action together", said Fredrik Johansson, founder of Hands2Ocean.

Today, H2O has more than 300 volunteers in Sweden who help clean up bodies of water across the country, both divers and rope pullers working on land. At their weekly diving excursions, they pull out everything they can find that does not belong in the water. But the organisation focuses in particular on three main groups of items:

  1. Boat and car batteries which contain corrosive sulfuric acid and the neurologically toxic metal lead.

  2. Car tyres which are based on oil and contain the heavy metal zinc as well as PAH oils that make the rubber soft but are also carcinogenic. 

  3. Electric scooters and e-bikes which contain electric components and lithium batteries that could cause serious damage if leaking into the water.

Since 2018, H2O have saved 41 tonnes of led batteries and in total 364 tonnes of waste from seabeds. 

Voi was founded around the same time as H2O, in 2018 when the organisation was called Rena Mälaren and mainly working in the Stockholm region. In the early days of shared micromobility, the industry faced some challenges related to parking and vandalism, including vehicles being thrown into the water. This prompted Voi to support the diving organisation financially as well as at events.

If a Voi vehicle is pulled out of the water, Voi’s fleet management team retrieves it and transports it to the nearest warehouse where its state is examined. A vehicle that hasn’t been in the water too long can often be completely restored and put back on the street after some maintenance. Vehicles that are too damaged are disassembled so that intact spare parts can be re-purposed while unsalvagable parts are recycled in a responsible way.

“Our e-scooters belong on land, where they transport thousands of commuters every day. We have definitely seen an improvement in the last few years thanks to user education, vehicle design and technical solutions. But there is still more awareness to be raised”, said Tina Ghasemi Liljekvist, Policy Manager for Voi in Sweden.

One of the key solutions implemented by Voi in connection with the H2O partnership is geofenced no-parking zones along the water lines of cities with central lakes, rivers and ocean fronts. This solution hinders riders from ending their trips close to bodies of water.

"Voi has supported our organisation financially and helped out at several events since we started out. We’ve really appreciated this fun and important partnership", said Johansson.

At this week’s Uppsala event, 700 kg of litter was retrieved from the river bed of Fyrisån in one afternoon, including many bikes, a handful of e-scooters (however, not a single Voi scooter), shopping carts as well as a few stranger items including a baby carriage and a kitchen sink.

During the 2024 diving season, H2O have plans for many more upcoming rescue events across Sweden. After that, the plan is to expand the movement internationally.

"Our plan is to expand this project even further, among other things we plan to start up in the Baltic countries next summer", said Johansson.

How you can support the important work of Hands2Ocean? H2O is a non-profit organisation fully depending on donations and volunteers. To be able to dive, you need to have an Advanced Open Water certificate, but anyone can sign up to help out with pulling ropes.

For more information on how to volunteer and/or donate, visit hands2ocean.se

Have you seen an e-scooter in the water? Please contact [email protected]

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