As part of Sustainable First’s partnership with the UNEP’s & UNWTO’s Global Tourism Plastics Initiative, Mafalda Borea speaks to Dr. Inmaculada Saranova de Martín, Executive Director at IbizaPreservation, on their commitment to the Global Tourism Plastics Initiative as part of promoting the conservation and regeneration of the unique socio-environmental heritage of Ibiza and Formentera by participating in the implementation and management of strategic environmental projects in the two islands. The foundation aims to contribute to the evolution of Ibiza and Formentera towards a model of sustainable island life for the 21st century by leading, fostering and participating in initiatives that promote environmental protection and more sustainable lifestyles. Further, it provides technical and financial support to high-quality environmental projects, above all in the areas of: land protection, marine conservation, NGOstrengthening, water management, waste and energy.
Question: Why is tackling plastic pollution so important for your organisation? Is plastic pollution an important issue on the level of your destination?
Answer: The fight against plastic pollution is one of our priorities as an environmental foundation and therefore one of our four key projects, Plastic Free Ibiza and Formentera, works specifically to reduce single-use plastics on the two islands. Although Ibiza is a small island, being a popular tourist destination with a large service sector, it produces huge amounts of waste every year, particularly during the high season. In fact, the island generates the highest per capita waste in the whole of Spain, an average of 672kg per person per year. Given that plastic pollution is particularly detrimental to the marine environment of the islands, we at IbizaPreservation believe that working to reduce this is essential.
Q: Why did you decide to join the Global Tourism Plastics Initiative? What is the goal you want to achieve?
A: Tourism is the economic engine of Ibiza and Formentera, so much so that it directly affects the islands’ governance model. Now the sector is one again fully operational following the Covid-19 lockdown and travel restrictions, all indications are that the influx of tourists will be even greater than before the pandemic. We would therefore like to appeal directly to businesses in the sector and encourage them to work actively for the conservation and protection of the environment, focusing on those areas, such as plastic pollution, that can easily be improved if there is a will to change. Our main goal in this regard is to eliminate, as far as is possible, single-use plastics from the tourism sector in Ibiza and Formentera. This will help the islands stand out as destinations committed to environmental protection and therefore help them become even more attractive and competitive.
Q: What are the main challenges you are facing in implementing solutions to tackle plastic pollution?
A: We believe that one of the main challenges is to raise awareness both among the tourists who visit us and within the tourism sector itself of the importance of putting an end to plastic waste. It’s key that people understand that this issue goes beyond waste generation and is directly connected to our dependence on fossil fuels: it is a chain that pollutes the environment at every point in its life cycle. We should bear this in mind when it comes to choosing the materials that form part of our daily lives. In practice, when we encourage businesses in the tourism sector, such as bars, restaurants and cafés, to eliminate single-use plastics, we see that often they have been hampered by a lack of knowledge about alternatives. For this reason, as part of the Plastic Free Balearics certification we developed jointly with Save the Med Foundation and with co-financing from Beyond Plastic Med, we created a “Guide to Honest Alternatives to Plastic” for the hospitality sector. It is important to show that plastic is not the only material available and to identify options that help businesses to reduce their environmental impact.
Q: Do you have a particularly interesting solution that you started implementing already and would like to share with us?
A: As previously mentioned, we have been working together with another foundation, Mallorca-based Save the Med, to develop Plastic Free Balearics, a certification aimed at facilitating the reduction of single-use plastics in the hospitality sector. This is a seal of environmental quality that not only helps businesses to comply with the Balearic Law on Waste and Contaminated Soils and European directives, but to go much further by offering useful tools through which they can identify honest alternatives to single-use plastic products, such as straws and other packaging, and learn about reusable options to eliminate and/or reduce waste.
Q: How do you measure the impact of your projects on plastic?
A: When we do clean-up activities on beaches or other natural environments, we count and classify the materials we find in order to carry out an audit as part of a global citizen science project, Break Free from Plastic, Additionally, through Plastic Free Balearics, we obtain data revealing the quantity of plastics eliminated by certified companies and also related to the alternatives they implement. Based on the quantities of product they used previously, we are able to compare with the current ones in order to study their evolution and the impact of the measures implemented. In this way, Plastic Free Balearics has already certified the elimination of more than 16,000kg of plastic waste throughout the Balearic Islands during its 10-month pilot phase.
Q: How do you involve the community in your engagement against plastic pollution, especially during high season?
A: Our Plastic Free Ibiza and Formentera project is an alliance of 14 other organisations united against plastic pollution on the islands. Together, we work throughout the year on various joint projects, and we promote the various activities of the members through our social media networks. We actively use these social networks to publicise alternatives and examples of good practice and to highlight instances of plastic pollution, in order to raise awareness among the community as a whole. We also raise awareness through local actions as well as participating in global initiatives such as World Clean Up Day. We organise conferences and workshops in collaboration with the local government in order to deepen understanding of the need to reduce waste with the hospitality sector. Recently, we have also created a new concept for our nature activities, called Hike & Clean. We have been doing beach clean-ups for years and, despite seeing that it has become a popular community activity, we don’t feel it is a genuine solution to the problem of plastic pollution. We believe in the need to focus on changing our consumption habits and not only on cleaning or recycling. For this reason, we have developed a series of outings and excursions for the local community that promote the concept of having fun and enjoying ourselves without littering. This helps us to teach habits that avoid leaving waste in our surroundings, whilst at the same time collecting the waste left by others that we find along the way.
IbizaPreservation is working towards the following UN Sustainable Development Goals:
IbizaPreservation is a signatory of the Global Tourism Plastics Initiative. This interview was published in partnership with UN Environment Programme’s One Planet Network’s Global Tourism Plastics Initiative and is also available here.