Mobile World Congress, the Barcelona Marathon and other big events are great for the hospitality industry and overall economy of Barcelona but what is the environmental cost?
20,000+ people with 10 drink stops probably generates at least 100,000 bottles which is more than half a football field covered in plastic.
The organizers do their best to encourage recycling and provide 85 large containers for recycling. But this is not enough. Most of the bottles get thrown on the street and cleaned up together with all the other waste so most likely not recycled.
Image of marathon with plastic waste:
Mobile World Congress:
100,000+ visitors for an average of 4 days consuming 2-3 bottles per day each is about 1 million or 5 football fields covered in plastic. Generally Fira provides good recycling bins throughout the fair but a lot of the bottles are from coffee shops, convenience stores and other places which is less controlled. This happens inside the Mobile World Congress.
So where does all of this plastic end up?
Worst case in the nature or landfills where it takes 400+ years to break down, pollutes soil and water around it and in the long term our oceans.
Best case it gets recycled. 2,151 kt of plastic wastes or scrap are generated in Spain annually: 34 % of them are recycled, 17 % are energetically valorised and 49 % are landfilled. (Source: Cicloplast 2016).
Why is this important?
Last 10 years we produced more plastic than previous 100 years. Plastic is now the nr 1 threat to our marine ecosystem due to a combination of direct and indirect pollution. Microplastics are small plastic pieces <5mm mainly from land-based sources which kill our ocean and aquatic life. Plastic water bottles can take between 400 and 1,000 years to decompose so the waste we generate today will last for many generations to come.
So what can we do?
Barcelona should take leadership in reducing plastic waste from tourism and other visitors. Take inspiration from Singapore’s Eco Run with a zero waste target and act as a role model for events. We also believe Fira and other organizers should encourage reusable bottles and water fountains at events even if it may reduce profit in the short term.