“Imagine the Maldives… I presume in your mind you are seeing images of serene beauty; lush tropical islands nestled into the beautiful reefs in the Indian Ocean; turquoise blue seas lapping up on white sandy beaches lined with coconuts and palm trees.
Now imagine it covered in plastic bottles… so many that you cannot see the white sandy beaches, imagine one island created entirely by waste. This is the way in which the Maldives was, and to some extent, is still heading. However, some resorts, alongside government schemes, realised that to keep going they were going to need to work out ways to keep paradise beautiful.
I was lucky enough to visit 5 resorts in late July and be taken back of house to see the innovative ways that hotel groups are becoming self-sufficient and changing the way waste management is handled.
The Villa Hotel group is the largest group in the Maldives, with over 1000 rooms, and across all their resorts they have found ways to reduce the amount of waste leaving the islands.
The entire operation is pretty intense, on each island every night a team of employees separate all the rubbish into four categories: landfill, plastic, glass and metals. The latter two are then crushed and sold back to government schemes for recycling, the plastic is crushed and one can hope is sold for recycling but currently cannot be guaranteed. The land fill is sent to the island of Thailafushi, previously a lagoon turned into a ‘trash island’ which has become the one of the largest islands and the industrial centre after Male the capital. It is not the most pleasant of islands at all and has been described as but, when the closest mainland to you is 1000’s of kilometres away it is better than it being dumped in the ocean!
This process happens on most resort islands, Villa Hotels, alongside some others, have gone one step further though. Currently all the Villa islands desalinise the sea water through reverse osmosis and a filtering process which is then used for shower water, this water then goes back into the system and is used as flushing water, the flushing water is then filtered and used either as flushing water again or to water the beautiful tropical gardens. Royal Island, one of the smaller of the resorts has run a trial of triple filtering the desalinised water to create drinking water which is served to guests in their mini bars daily – this process has saved the hotel using 250,000 plastic bottles in a year. The hotel group is introducing this to their other 4 resorts, which will result in nearly 2 million less plastic bottles needing to be used each year! The other bonus in this is that the Maldivian employees are going home to their local islands and showing them ways in which they can deal with waste better .
The Maldives have just been granted $17.5 Million in financing towards the ‘Maldives Clean Environmental Project’ which will be implemented over the next 6 years, this carries on from the previously funded ‘Maldives Environmental Management Project’, MEMP (The World Bank, 2017). This will mainly be concerned with the Solid Waste Management and looking at technical ways of getting rid of solid waste instead of dumping on the increasingly toxic Thailafushi. This alongside the excellent work of the resorts will hopefully see a massive shift in the way in which water and waste are dealt with and a huge improvement on the local environment.”