– We can do it together – If we don’t it will be game over, says Brad Robertson, president of SaveTheMed in the Balearics.
Brad Robertson, president of SaveTheMed, says it is time to make urgent changes.
The Balearics have banned disposable plastic now. Stopping plastic bottles is next.
– All we need is true commitment to save the world, says Brad.
Originally from Sydney, Australia, he spent 10 years on the Great Barrier Reef.
– I met my Spanish wife Bea from Pamplona there, says Brad Robertson.
– When she said she wanted to go back to Spain, we decided on Mallorca.
Once here, Brad started the event and diving company Ondine, romantically named after a cousin of the mermaid, and quickly became engaged in environmental issues.
– It’s hard to have a business and work with non for profit issues. When I ended the business the organisation exploded! We had first 3, and then 5 employees, working with much more transparency and more control.
Plastic Free Balearics
Save The Med Foundation is a name that says everything. Today the Non Governmental Organisation (NGO) has 13 employees and 8 board members. There is a team of scientists, along with a crew that does education and multimedia.
– The sea can manage perfectly well without us human beings – in fact the sea would be so much better off without us, says SaveTheMed’s president, who wears a necklace that is the shape of a whale’s tail, and carries his long hair in a ponytail.
– Our course of action is to make the collective human behaviour change. If we don’t it will be game over. The limit is close. Look at the floods on the east coast of Australia…
IbizaPreservation and SaveTheMed are preparing the ”Plastics Free Balearics” initiative to stop 200.000 tonnes of plastic from polluting the Mediterranean. Finding alternatives to single-use plastics is the road forward. SaveTheMed designed a tool that measures plastic usage, offering comparisons and improvements to make us more environmentally friendly.
Today the Balearics have banned plastic plates, cutlery, cups, trays and rings for holding cans of drink together. Masks and other hygienic single-use plastic items are excluded from the ban as long as the state of alarm lasts.
Recycling glass bottles
Tourism has been the main source of waste in the archipelago, where it is one of the biggest sources of pollution overall in the Mediterranean.
Plastic water bottles for water and other drinks should be the next thing to go.
– It is necessary to have fresh water, especially now that we have completely polluted the underwater reservoirs because of bad farming practices, says Brad. We shouldn’t be using a product made of oil that isn’t biodegradable. Regrettably, glass bottles are the best solution for drinks today, as they are recyclable at least. Any company that shows a real commitment to changing the environment is welcome to work with SaveTheMed.
– We would work with companies like Coca Cola, if they were genuinely interested and devoted to changing their business model and investing in environmental protection, and decided to go ahead with recyclable glass bottles for everything. The responsibility has to be with the manufacturers, as they have mega billions involved and also have a responsibility to the consumer.
Top level environment changes
Each of us consumers should of course do whatever we can to pick up plastic items and make sure to manage our own waste as much as possible. But large corporations and governments have the power to do so much more to change the tragic cycle we are in.
– There are lobbyists in plastic that have a lot of power, says Brad.
– There are lawyers, there is corruption and greed. Fighting this thing is hard. It needs to be dealt with within the European Community and at a high corporate level. People at the top need to be held personally responsible. Today many are filling their pockets and taking zero responsibility. The majority of the environmental corporate social responsibility projects out there are paper solutions only. They might as well throw it all away – it’s very frustrating.
The system isn’t working
Yes, people still need to make money. But today’s system isn’t working.
– Bioplastics are as bad as the old plastic – if not worse, says Brad.
– There is still a base of petroleum in it, and when some bioplastic breaks down into little beads the size of nanoparticles, this will create an even bigger problem as these will enter the food and water systems and wreak havoc with our lives.
SaveTheMed’s president has built a good relationship with many organisations, companies and people through the job he is doing with his exemplary organisation.
– But when you put facts on the table stating that changes involving 7 to 8 million euros need to be made, people tend to disappear, and sure, I sometimes wonder if I will end up at the bottom of Palma Bay, says Brad Robertson, making us worried for his safety.
Another source of future health problems is clothing made of recycled plastics.
– Plastic that has been left in the sea for a long time accumulates toxins, he says.
– There are a lot more horrible chemicals in plastic brought up from the sea, and now lots of companies are making clothes with it. I have asked CEO’s at several companies what their process is to remove these chemicals, as they are putting carcinogenic materials into their clothes.
Another thing SaveTheMed does, is to investigate companies that claim to be making biodegradable products. One of the products they investigated recently makes straws for drinks. A proud hotelier was sure he had done something great when buying this.
– The straws, that seemed to originate from the island, had roots in Holland and China too, and in the end they turned out not to be biodegradable at all, says Brad Robertson.
– After we took action, the biodegradable info vanished from the company’s website. The problem is, if we are able to stop one company with misleading info, two new ones pop up.
SaveTheMed has amazing children’s courses, some of them on board ships. One of them is dedicated to pollution reduction and the other to marine protection.
– The children are very invested in these issues and many of our participants have changed their lives completely after getting involved with SaveThe Med, says Brad.
– We can see that the children of people in the yachting industry are putting pressure on their parents. They are rejecting the wealth and calling for environmental support. We believe children’s education is key and that their views will hit home with their parents. We need to educate people to make their minds up. With 1,2 million people in the Balearics supporting us we can do lots more!
Amazing sea life
SaveTheMed goes between 10 and 20 miles from the coast and finds large schools of bluefin tuna and other marine riches there.
– We had seven Giant Devil Rays swimming around us, says Brad.
– These moments are life changing for kids. We are all so connected to nature, and this really becomes evident when we get to actually experience nature together. One of our goals is to have environmental education at all the schools here.
How do we educate adults to be more environmentally friendly?
– We should have a law that enforced businesses to have two extra columns on their spreadsheets. One would be for the environment and the other would be dedicated to change social damage.
– Where marine life is concerned we have made videos where we tell people what to do if they find a sea turtle that is caught in a net, for example. It isn’t good for the animals just to be cut free. Call 112 and ask them to come over, or we might be the ones to come to the rescue. Check out our video here to see what the vets do.
Text: Charlotte von Proschwitz.
Photo: Thomas Engstrom.