International help is urgently needed to tackle plastic pollution at 'Ground Zero'in The Maldives, where the highest level of microplastic concentration in the world has been found.
The underbelly of ‘Paradise’ - no landfill on an island nation...just a mountain of burning waste.
trash island - Thilafushi, Maldives
The Maldives is an island nation comprised of 98% water in the Indian Ocean, blessed with beautiful beaches, sunshine and 1-2 million tourists per year. Yet, their leading industry has also created a huge problem that has been mismanaged for decades. The shocking image of Thilafushi (above & right) is not a one-off burning pile of plastic. Thilafushi is an actual island of 124 acres near the capital of Male, of which 24 acres are a piled mountain of waste accumulated over 30 years that has been burning for decades.
It started as a tiny lagoon of coral that expanded over time when plastic, plus construction and organic waste was dumped there from the early 1990s. The Maldivian government wasn’t prepared for the rapid growth of the tourism industry when the Male airport was expanded, to enable international flights. With this explosive influx of tourists came imports of what tourists wanted to consume while on holiday - most of which came in single-use, plastic packaging.
The ‘island’ that tourism built with it's rubbish...
Filter feeders like whale sharks (above) and manta rays suffer most from microplastics, which get ingested along with their food source.
Further information can be found at:
'Maldives records highest level of micro plastic pollution on the planet’ by Flinders University
According to a UN Environment Program report in 2021 entitled ‘Plastic Pollution in the Maldives’, plastic waste makes up 12% of total waste in the Maldives (they claim 43,134 tonnes plastic/yr). An incredible 66% of this plastic is mismanaged by being burned or escaping into the ocean.
That’s a 28,468 tonnes/yr problem!
“The conservative estimate shows that we produce at least 20,000 tonnes of plastic annually in the Maldives. And just about 5 per cent of that is recycled. The rest either ends up in landfills or it's burnt or it’s in the ocean,”
- quote from ‘Transforming ‘Trash Island’ video short by Channel News Asia
'Microplastic Filter Feeders' animation by Ashton
How to Help!
A pledge to contribute $5m/year over three years could seriously help scale-up efforts and organisations working at 'Ground Zero' on a grassroots level tackling legacy plastic waste and microplastics in the Maldives- a problem that has been devastating this fragile, marine ecosystem for over three decades.
The opportunity to make a lasting difference...
with sustainable, circular solutions supporting the local communities within the Maldives -
aka 'Ground Zero'.
The Maldivian Government has now banned the import of single-use plastics - taking effect from March 2024 for plastic bottles one litre and smaller and includes plastic carrier bags, single-use cutlery and other items of concern…helping turn off the tap.