A packed audience in the Museum of the Race in Alicante heard from a range of speakers about the scale of the problem - it is estimated that there will be more plastic than fish in the oceans by 2050 - and solutions that can have a lasting impact on ocean health.
These included government initiatives to address the issue and new practices hotels, restaurants and events can implement to move towards Alicante becoming ‘a city without plastic’.
Representatives from a range of organisations joined Johan Salén, managing director of The Ocean Race, Israel Cortés, Alicante councillor whose department oversees environment and cleaning and Roger Llanes Ribas, Valencian Government general director of agriculture, livestock and fisheries.
Johan Salén said: “We have committed to putting sustainability at the heart of the race and we want to take our home city of Alicante with us on the journey.
“We are proud to be able to use the race platform in Alicante to assemble a range of key stakeholders to explore the issues linked to plastic pollution, highlight solutions and hopefully inspire attendees to put into practice some of the initiatives that were discussed during the event.”
The seminar heard how in 2018, the Valencian Region local government supported more than 300 projects in an awareness campaign that also offered training to fishermen on how to reduce plastic pollution in the sea.
“More than 69 tonnes of plastic were recovered last year from the Mediterranean Sea by fishermen in more than 200 boats from 14 ports in the region, almost half of them in Alicante,'' said Roger Llanes Ribas, Valencian Government general director of agriculture, livestock and fisheries.
“The government subsidises the time spent on these tasks and in the recycling of these plastics. However the key is to raise awareness and offer solutions and we are also working on that front. A simple change in our consuming habits could have a huge impact.”
Israel Cortés said: “The Race is the perfect stage to spread these key sustainable messages around the world.
“We’ve listened to many people who are committed to this cause including politicians, companies and schoolchildren. I left this conference thinking that despite the huge dimensions of the problem of plastic pollution there is a lot of hope that little by little it will be solved.”
Students from CEIP College El Faro de Alicante, talked about initiatives the school has implemented to reduce their reliance on plastic. They also told the audience how they are spreading the message amongst their communities to raise awareness of ways everyone can help be part of the solution.
Soraya Romero López, Sustainability Manager, Iberostar Hotels and Resorts, Nuria Díaz Díaz, sustainable event management expert, restaurant owner Raquel Perramón and Mayra Lacruz, CEO & Co-Founder of sustainability consultants SEN innova, shared their inspiring stories about taking positive steps to reduce reliance on plastic.
Soraya Romero López said: “It’s important to show that it’s possible for the hospitality industry to make positive changes by spreading the message about what we have achieved so far.
“If people attending events such as this start to think about making changes in the way they operate and spread the message at work and at home then we are increasing the knowledge chain.”
Alicante has been the start port of the round the world sailing race in the last four editions and will continue to be for the next two. The race established its headquarters in the city in 2010 and in 2012 opened The Ocean Race Museum.