During the Palma Superyacht Show 2018 I had the pleasure of being invited to the ACREW talk on Water Without Waste, which was hosted by the wonderful Dutch captain Marja Kok, featuring Alice from Asociación Ondine and Phillip from Cleanwater. It was truly heartening to see that the seminar was full to bursting with captains and their crew. From the comments I heard people were not only there as representatives of the superyacht industry but also from their own personal perspectives. As residents and visitors to this wonderful island we see the effect of plastic on the environment on a daily basis and I think people now realise that change begins with them. The idea that one person cannot make a difference is out dated and outmoded. It may sound naïve to some but if each and every one of us started with ourselves then the collective difference we would make would be vast.
In the Balearics alone, each person creates on average 600 kilos of waste per year, 70% of which is plastic. We get through a whopping 1.5 million plastic bottles a day. And if we go more micro and use the superyacht charter industry as an example, a boat with 3 guests use 1,600 bottles over the three month summer season. With approximately 9,000 superyachts active around the world that’s a hell of a lot of bottles a year. And that’s before we even get to the crew….
There is a misnomer that what we need to do is recycle, and whilst we should without a doubt continue to do so, what we really need to do is to start to REDUCE. You see recycling was brought about approximately 40 years ago due to the paper shortage in Japan and plastics have been around for 50 years, so the difference that recycling has made has been minimal if we look at the 80 million tonnes that are currently floating around our oceans being ingested by birds, fish and mammals and …. wait for it…. yes, US. Microplastics enter the food chain at sea level and who is at the top of the food chain? It stands to reason that we are ingesting the very plastics we are talking about in our fish and seafood.
Asociación Ondine’s Alice Mason put some facts and figures out there to us about our very own island. Solid research is how we can find out where the pollution is coming from, what forms it takes and the solution to how to stop it, in order to preserve a healthy and clean sea for future generations. On just one beach clean, within a 50m test zone, over 4,000 items of single use plastic were found! Of the 4,000 items 575 were cigarette butts and 271 were cotton wool buds or Q-tips. On another beach clean in Santa Ponsa 67kgs were collected in only 90 minutes by a group of some of the 180 strong volunteers. One of the problems that Palma faces is that we have a defective filtration system and when the Palma rains come the flood gates are quite literally opened. This sends the waste directly into our beautiful waters.
There is also some confusion surrounding bio-plastics made from recycled materials. It is often thought that these can just be left and they will degrade over time, but this is simply not the case. In order to destroy these bio-plastics exact conditions are needed including specific heat temperatures, water and chemicals. In the Balearics bio-plastics are incinerated as we don’t have a specific composting facility. And if we don’t have one it’s highly unlikely that the beautiful Caribbean islands we are visiting will. People need to be aware that you can’t just throw these things in the sea and expect them to disappear.
We were then shown an utterly heart-breaking film put together about the research of Dr. Jennifer Lavers on Lord House Island near Australia. In it she takes us on a journey around the island gathering up the dead bodies of migrating seabirds and taking them back to her laboratory. From the particular bird she was dissecting she collected 234 separate pieces of plastic, of all shapes, sizes and colour and sadly that wasn’t the record. She once gathered 276 pieces from one 90-day old chick. 15% of its body mass was made up of plastic. That’s the equivalent of 12 pizzas or 6-8 kilos in an average human being. Horrifyingly a staggering 90% of sea-birds have swallowed plastic and in 2050 there will be as much plastic as fish in the ocean!
So what do we do? This year Marja sent out a survey to the yachting industry asking a number of questions regarding plastic use on Superyachts in order to best come up with an industry solution to the problem. She received 134 responses from mainly captains and chief stews. She presented her findings at the seminar.
It was found that 57.4% of the crew of those boats surveyed use plastic bottles, with 81% of their guests using them. It adds up to 40 million litres of bottled water per year. Yet 47% of boats said that they have water filters fitted but many don’t use them. When asked why not the largest response was that the owners prefer bottled water as they believed it to be healthier and to contain all of the minerals a body needs. This is a myth as the body gets the minerals it needs from food and not water, and a proper filtration system can be fitted that adds in the minerals that are found in bottled water anyway. It is known that bottled water can often contain damaging plastic particles, can be years old and stored in unhealthy conditions making it far worse for the body than filtered water.
The good news from the survey is that 95.4% of respondents said that they would consider changing their plastic bottle usage if there was a viable alternative. Marja has created the organisation Water Without Waste where you can see the full survey results and also take a look at the Wall of Care where you can see the first boats to have banned water bottles and single use plastic. It currently features The Bonnie Lass and Morwenna, Pete and Roo Lucas’s boats, who are staunch supporters of Ondine. It also features Sonia, Felice, Syningaloo, Atalantel, Topaz, Farfalla, My First Lady, Jeff Brown, TiCoyo, Rivendell, Via Vai and Ywam. Why not make yours next? If your superyacht is plastic free, please fill out the survey on the website to join the Wall of Care and help encourage the industry at large. One of the most encouraging results from the survey was that on the back of it a one oil tanker, Sonia, has gone completely plastic free and that captain is now pitching to the management and crew of the entire fleet of 45 tankers to do the same. It just takes one…
An objection raised by a member of crew at the seminar is that it is impossible to know what the water quality will be like at many of the ports. Not all of the tanks are maintained properly. Whilst this is a valid objection with the right legislation for quality control at port level it would not impossible to make the change at ground level. This is where the voice of the boat industry at large has to come in. We need to lobby the flags and administrations to implement best practices at shore based stations. We will benefit as a global community if we can implement change.
Phillip Baier from Cleanwave was particularly inspiring when he spoke of those in the industry being change makers. That there is a movement happening and the superyacht industry wants to be at the forefront of it. That despite some vocal naysayers we can have a positive and immediate effect on the environment around us. All it takes is one committed Captain to see where the future is heading if we don’t act now. The influence the superyacht industry has over suppliers is immense. If each crew refused to take shopping in plastic bags for example, I doubt it would take long for deliveries to come in boxes or paper bags. And you the crew, you need to stand up for your beliefs to your captains. You are the rainmakers, the enforcers of change.
And the best thing? Those solutions that 94.5% of you said would make you change the way you do things are already available. They’re here and they needn’t cost the earth, but instead, save the earth.
The three top solutions are to fit a Filtration and Purifying Watermaker either up or downstream from the water tanks. To see the levels of filtration, complexities and how to overcome them please visit www.waterwithoutwaste.org where the process is explained in full. These filtration systems as well as being environmentally friendly are also kind to the pocket, the man hours, storage capacity and waste disposal. In one year the difference will be marked.
For yachts that prefer it, there’s the possibility to install stylishly designed dispensers, either as a table model on the galley worktop or if it’s preferred and there is the space, a standing model. There are options for an extra bacterial control by UV purification or a special anti-bacterial coating on the outside of the dispenser. Alternatively there are dispenser/cooler taps that dispense both still and sparkling water at the perfect temperature, into designer bottles fit for the most auspicious of guests.
And for crew the simplest solution are the re-usable and personalised bottles. There are a number of different versions now, our favourite being the Cleanwave Reusable bottle which can be refilled at any of the numerous refill stations across Palma and the island as a whole. Checkout www.cleanwave.org to find out where those points are. Let’s help the Cleanwave movement. Start asking at your favourite yoga studios and bars and cafes about having a system installed. Point out who is already on-board. Make it known how important it is. Together we can ride the wave to cleaner seas.
So where do we go from here? Yes, the yachting industry is niche and maybe we can’t change the world overnight, but we need to start somewhere so why not here? We travel the world, have the ear of the 1% and are ambassadors for our oceans. We have a responsibility to start making a difference. Let’s be one of the first, not the last and shift our mentality and the mentality of those around us.
It was rightly pointed out that IT’S TIME TO CHANGE. THERE IS NO PLANET B!
By Victoria Pearce
For reference to the facts and figures quoted and for further information on how you can get involved visit: