Mike Bilodeau On Why He’s Leading Plastic Oceans Europe

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The Mediterranean is a beautiful part of the world, especially Barcelona. The weather’s incredible, the coastline’s gorgeous, the food’s fantastic, and so on. The same can be said for much of Europe, actually. That’s why so many people live here, and why so many people visit year-round. That’s also why it’s in such a sad state.

Mike Bilodeau, Executive Director of Plastic Oceans Europe

Mike Bilodeau, Executive Director of Plastic Oceans Europe.

When I first arrived in Barcelona last summer, I was a bit overwhelmed to say the least. Moving from a village of 28 in an isolated part of New Zealand to a city of 1.7 million in the middle of tourist season was pretty intense. Six months on, I’m slowly adjusting to the pace of city life. However, what I’m not getting used to is how filthy the beaches are here.

Toilets in Barcelona flush straight into the Sea. Also, street litter is swept and washed down the storm sewers daily. When a decent rain comes, the sewers start to overflow and flood the streets because they’re blocked with rubbish. This is when the outflows are opened up, releasing rubbish, sewage, and who knows what else into the Mediterranean Sea. A solid amount of this waste ends up on beaches all along the coast, but what’s more worrying is the amount that’s still out there contaminating this beautiful body of water.

Barceloneta is a hot spot for tourists. Restaurants, chiringuitos, shops, and street vendors alike make a decent business from selling to both locals and tourists, especially during the summer. It’s shocking to see the number of single-use products being used in this area alone. Unnecessary plastic items that are only used once can be found at every turn.

Single-use mindsets are usually down to a lack of awareness in one form or another. For some, it’s not knowing the horrible effects single-use products can have on our natural environment, as well as our health. For others, it’s not knowing there are affordable alternatives available. And unfortunately for some, it’s not even knowing about single-use in the first place. However, I boil most of the issue down to a large majority of people choosing a lifestyle based around comfort and convenience, which we’ve basically been force-fed for far too long. Many people I speak with about minimizing single-use in their day-to-day lives put making changes into the too hard basket. This is an unfortunate part of our society that desperately needs to change as soon as possible.

Mediterranean Sea in Barcelona

The coast of Barcelona is far from immune from plastic pollution.

Some of the usual suspects found on the beaches of Barcelona are wet wipes, sanitary pads, tampons, condoms, cotton buds … … that’s right! Straight from your toilet into the Sea we all swim in … straws, beer can rings, plastic bottles, bottle lids, plastic bags, plastic cups and plastic cutlery. Sadly, this is just the tip of the iceberg. The biggest offender of all though are cigarette butts. It’s absolutely insane how many people see the ground, a tree well, a storm sewer drain, the sand, and even the Sea as an ashtray. I just don’t get it.

I’ve spent the past half-year documenting the issue here in Barcelona. During this time, I’ve realized that tackling it on my own would be an endless task. Plastic Oceans International is a well-known organisation, with offices around the globe, that does an incredible job at trying to turn the tide. They’re years ahead of where I am, but share a similar vision. That’s why I’m really excited to join their team as the Executive Director of Plastic Oceans Europe (POE). Based in Barcelona, POE will work throughout Europe to collaborate with local NGO’s who are already doing fantastic work on the ground here, local government, schools, local businesses, and members of the public, educating, spreading awareness, and protecting the Med, North Atlantic and the other marine and freshwater systems of the continent. There’s a lot of work ahead, but I’m definitely up for the challenge.

Please follow us on social media, and support us in any way you can. If you’d like more information, want to donate, or would like to get involved, check out our website at https://plasticoceans.org/europe/.

Get in touch and join the wave of change!

If you are in Barcelona, please join our launch event at Sharma Climbing Barcelona, on February 26, 7pm to 9pm. It’s an evening of film and conversation, with Mike Bilodeau and Chris Sharma speaking. FACEBOOK EVENT HERE: http://bit.ly/plastic-oceans-europe-event

Read Mike’s bio HERE.