Maalhos, Baa Atoll, went down in history on Monday as the first local island to officially halt open burning as it unveiled the Maalhos Eco Centro, a "waste-to-wealth" waste processing facility established in partnership with luxury resort Soneva Fushi.
The first eco centro to be established in a local island, the facility was modelled after Soneva Fushi's own eco centro, and developed in Maalhos under the Namoona Baa initiative.
Launched in January 2019 by the island councils of Maalhos, Dharavandhoo and Kihaadhoo in partnership with Soneva and the UK-based NGO Common Seas, the Namoona Baa initiative is a community-geared project which aims to reduce single-use plastics, recycle and promote zero waste, and inspire ocean stewardship. As such, the island councils have pledged to end open burning and establish an ‘Eco-Centro’, for which Soneva has pledged funds from its Soneva Namoona programme as support.
Maalhos Eco Centro was inaugurated by former president and incumbent Speaker of Parliament, Mohamed Nasheed, in a special ceremony attended by Soneva's founder and CEO, Sonu Shivdasani, Chief Justice Muthasim Adnan, members of parliament, Maalhos' councillors and island residents.
According to Gordon Jackson, the Soneva Namoona Champion who led the tour of the facility, Maalhos' residents segregate their everyday waste, which is then brought to the eco centro through the island's waste collection service. At the facility, plastics and cardboard waste are run through a compactor provided by Soneva Fushi, reducing the waste volume by 10:1. The eco-centro will also chip wood waste, crush glass, and produce compost from kitchen waste.
Jackson revealed that the compacted plastics are sent to Parley for the Oceans, a global environmental organisation working against plastic pollution of oceans, for recycling. He added that the eco centro is also seeking markets to recycle other types of waste, thus converting garbage into resources in true waste-to-wealth spirit.
A special ceremony was held after the unveiling at a plot that was previously used as the landfill for Maalhos.
Addressing the attendees, Soneva's founder and CEO Sonu shed light on the Namoona Baa initiative, which the resort is undertaking in partnership with the UK-based NGO Common Seas, and the island councils of Maalhos, Kihaadhoo and Dharavandhoo. He stated that the Soneva team met the partners to discuss the initiative just 12 months ago, and hailed the progress achieved as Maalhos became the first island in Maldives to stop open burning.
He also noted that Soneva Fushi established a water plant in Maalhos, which supplies water in glass bottles to island residents. As part of Namoona Baa's 'reduce' aspect, the plant eliminated 49,000 single-use plastic bottles over the past eight months, he stated.
Soneva is looking to expand these projects to Dharavandhoo and Kihaadhoo, with plans to unveil their eco centros during 2020.
"It is our hope that working with Baa Atoll Council, and ideally with funds from the government, we want to extend this service to all islands in the Baa Atoll, so it will truly be 'Namoona Baa'",' he said.
Sonu went on to highlight that 25 percent of waste still end up in the sea while being transferred to landfills. He revealed that Soneva is planning to install cameras on its boats in order to police their movements to ensure that garbage does not end up in the oceans.
"We will work with Common Seas to prototype a monitoring system that we hope can be adapted across the Maldives".
He further emphasised that if everyone worked together to achieve these goals to reduce and recycle, the right environment could be created "for Maldives to be the world's most progressive country on single-use plastics".