While the whole world is migrating onto sustainable means of life, the Maldives is taking its space on the movement too. Regardless of being a business, a social movement or even lifestyle at home, sustainability is taking the center of the stage.
Single-use plastics or disposable plastics—plastic bags, straws, water bottles, etc.—are used just once before they are thrown away or recycled. Roughly 300 million tons of plastic is produced annually, and only about 10 percent is recycled. In the Maldives, a fairly large portion of single-use plastics end up in the sea.
Plastic recycling lab in Malé City
The state-run Waste Management Corporation (WAMCO) has recently collaborated with Parley for the Oceans—an environmental organizations that addresses environmental threats and ocean plastic pollution—and established a Plastic Recycling Laboratory in Malé City; a first-of-its-kind initiative in the country.
The WAMCO-Parley run laboratory is able to process up to 100 kilos of plastic a day, including polypropylene (PP), polystyrene (PS), polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and high-density polyethylene (HDPE) plastics. Useful items such as phone cases, files and flowerpots are then produced.
According to WAMCO, the lab’s purpose is not only recycling; but to also involve the public through awareness. Students of schools are given tours of the lab and its processes
Farukoe and scrapping plastics from schools
Ministry of Education in the Maldives—through its creative policy and programs initiative Ufaa—launched a nation-wide ocean exploration program for schools to ensure every student in every school have seen the beautiful, lively reefs of Maldives before the end of 2018.
According to Sofiya Rasheed from the Ufaa initiative, an important objective of the snorkeling program “Farukoe” (child of the reef) is to make schools a voice for the oceans.
“This is achieved by two main activities; Farukoe, and banning single-use plastics in schools,” said Sofiya.
Since April 2018, all schools in Maldives are proudly single-use plastic free.
Parley for the Oceans has been collaborating with many Maldivian institutions—both private and public—on reducing ocean plastic pollution. Parley is currently partnering with the Education Ministry’s Ufaa initiative to take up waste plastic from schools for recycling.
Parley affiliated together with Dhiraagu—the leading and largest telecommunications and digital services provider in the Maldives—to conduct awareness sessions for school students.
Under the partnership with Adidas, Parley created a handmade shoe produced from plastic waste collected from the Maldives. A pair of these shoes was presented to the President of Maldives His Excellency Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom in 2016.
Tourism and service sectors make amends
Maldives promotes tourism properties to vitalize sustainability and reduce its plastic-footprint. Many resorts and hotels discourage usage of single-use plastics on the properties.
One property that recently joined the plastic-free movement is Hotel Jen Malé.
“We halted using plastic bags in July. Our take-away cups and bags are made from recycled paper. We have switched to alternatives and quit using plastic containers too. Our aim is to stop plastic straws in drinks next year,” said Nina Mohamed, Marketing and Communications Manager at Hotel Jen Malé.
Flag Carrier Maldivian is also preparing to switch over to paper cups for in-flight beverage service.
Ali Nashath Hameed, Media Coordinator at Maldivian says this is the first of many steps the airline will take towards sustainability and plastic cutback.
Many cafes and restaurants in the Maldives are also promoting the plastic-free lifestyle and services.
“We don’t have PET bottles here. Instead we serve drinks like coca cola in glass bottles. Cafés generally produce a lot of plastic waste—including at least 500 plastic straws a month. We have switched to paper straws. Our plastic waste reduced immensely. Customers really appreciate our green initiative,” said Afshan Ashfaq and Akmal Shaheed, a young duo that runs The Goatfish Café and Bistro in Malé City.