Since 1999, Camilla Appelgren has spent every summer here in Malta. As of five years ago she’s a permanent resident. In that time she’s organized about 30 clean-ups all over the island. Along with her two children, her Maltese boyfriend and his own two children, Camilla hopes to inspire and educate others… and things are finally kicking off big time.
“I came here 18 years ago as a language student living with a Maltese family in Buġibba,” Camilla remembers. “I was only 14 years old, and I fell head over heels in love with this island. When my kids were going to start school, I moved here permanently and started working as a diving instructor.”
Camilla admits that being from Sweden definitely helped her bring to Malta a certain heightened awareness and respect for nature, but the island’s local councils were surprisingly helpful. “The councils are of course happy that I do this for free, but they also use it to show citizens that we all have a responsibility to keep our towns clean. They sponsor me with skips, bags, gloves and sometimes even water and fruit for the volunteers. Besides, the closeness to the people is so awesome – I haven’t lived in any other country where I had mayors’ numbers saved on my phone!”
The previous mayor of Mosta, her husband, two volunteers and Camilla’s children during a clean up earlier last year.
“I haven’t lived in any other country where I had mayors’ numbers saved on my phone!”
One of the most important things for Camilla is the need for everyone to pull their own weight. “There is no easy solution for it. We as citizens need to make the world sustainable, not push it for just the government to solve. When I started there were plenty of times it was only me and my children showing up… it was sad, but we did what we went for and still felt motivated.”
Trying to organize at least one clean up per month in different areas around Malta, Camilla also tries to raise awareness of a zero waste lifestyle. “We all bring reusable bottles with water and use reusable gloves. Plastic is never used. I also highly encourage people to bring their children, because they are the future. By kids seeing us doing this, they will for sure think twice before littering.”
“I also highly encourage people to bring their children, because they are the future.”
Over the years, Camilla’s clean ups have received very different reactions. “The feedback is a complicated story, and as foreigner, I’m sometimes taken as doing something I shouldn’t be doing. I’ve been told to go back to my country a couple of times whenever I try to give feedback and opinions on online forums, but I’ve also heard very good stuff.”
She recounts how she’s experienced Maltese people who seem ashamed that a foreigner has to be the person to try and inspire a change like this. “More and more Maltese join in on my clean ups. And I’m glad it’s finally happening, because Malta is my home now. Sweden is going abroad. That is how strong I feel about this island. All my memories from my teenage years are here, and I want to make sure my children have ones that are just as beautiful.”
“Malta is my home now. Sweden is going abroad. That is how strong I feel about this island.”
In fact, Camilla’s children are a very big part of this whole initiative. “They’re actually the reason I do this. My son wants to become an animal rescuer and every summer he spends hours snorkeling and brings back plastic from the sea so the turtles won’t eat it. They are my heroes… it’s that simple.”
If you’d like to keep up to date with future initiatives, be sure to follow the Facebook group Malta Clean Up; more will definitely be coming, and Camilla and her family need all the help they can get.