The Namoona Sustainable Waste Management Model focuses on island-level solutions, such as a reduction in single-use plastics and the proper segregation and sorting of waste. The model helps to simplify planning and decision-making for island councils and donors when it comes to supporting waste management activities. These first phase efforts for any island are focused on taking control of the waste generated and maximising the opportunities for efficient transportation and recycling. These activities are supported by the Level of Sustainability framework.
Waste, especially plastic, is a significant challenge for Maldivian island communities. Due to underdeveloped waste management systems, facilities and collection services, waste is burned in open bonfires, posing a threat to the environment and human health.
The first step for participating Namoona islands is a gathering of the island’s leadership, with representatives from the island council, women’s development committee, school, health centre, businesses and local NGOs. These are the changemakers who will make the necessary interventions in the community to improve waste segregation, collection and processing.
As part of these discussions, an evaluation of the island waste management centre (IWMC) will highlight the need for a “Fresh Start” activity and any necessary upgrades for effective waste segregation, compacting, and baling. Some Namoona islands’ IWMCs have been upgraded to Eco Centros, custom designed sustainable waste management centres that are modelled on the Soneva resort practices of recycling 90 per cent of food and organic waste, metal, plastic and bottles.
In December 2021, Soneva Namoona achieved a Maldives’ first: the seven Namoona islands in the Baa Atoll commissioned a recyclable waste collection boat to collect 50 tonnes of segregated, compacted and baled recyclable waste and transport it recycling companies in the capital.
Maalhos, Dharavandhoo, Dhonfanu, Kihaadhoo, Kamadhoo, Kudarikilu, and Kendhoo islands have since then been visited by a regular collection service for their recyclable and non-recyclable waste. Based on the learnings from these collections, Soneva Namoona has developed the Namoona Waste Processing Guide to help all islands prepare their waste in a consistent manner to maximise recycling and efficient transportation.
Food waste represents approximately 41% of all waste by weight on islands in the Maldives. It is perhaps the most challenging waste stream to deal with, as it is expected to be removed from the house every day, and in the hot tropical climate of the Maldives it cannot be stored elsewhere without rotting.
Dumping in the ocean is the most common disposal method for food waste in the Maldives. While in the past, when all waste was organic, the environmental impact would have been low, now however food waste is routinely contaminated with thin plastics and other non-biodegradable items. Lagoons and the oceans within atolls risk being inundated with a daily flow of plastics because of these practices.
Through the USAID Clean Cities, Blue Oceans (CCBO) programme, Soneva Namoona has been working with several islands to trial the Takakura Home Composting (THC) method. This initiative, called “Kaadhu Satheyka”, is showing very promising results. It is an aerobic process and relies on maintaining suitable oxygen levels to keep the microbes active. In these conditions food waste is quickly transformed into a soil-looking material in just a few days.
For the home user, the THC method is very simple. It only requires the food waste to be cut up into small pieces (to accelerate the decomposition) and mixed into the seed compost once a day. It is the simplicity of the THC method, combined with the lack of smell and rapid composting, which is responsible for the high success rate of the trials.
Waste is defined as items that have been used or, thrown away, and items that rot and decay; however, one person’s waste can be another person’s resource. Adopting a ‘zero waste’ mentality reduces the volume of waste on an island and fosters opportunities for innovation and employment by reusing and recycling the waste materials which are carefully collected.
Once islands have taken control of their waste by redesigning their systems, the second phase of the Namoona Sustainable Waste Management Model will focus on reducing waste by providing reusable alternatives to single-use products, and reusing and recycling as much of the remaining resources as possible. Current untapped potential for waste to wealth enterprises based on using waste as a resource include:
1. Composting services for resorts and local islands
2. Sawmills for processing logs into timber
3. Factories for producing cocopeat and coco-fibre from coconut husks
4. Electronics workshops for repairing and recycling e-waste
5. Construction waste processing to extract sand and aggregate
6. Carpentry workshops for repurposing waste wood
7. Workshops to create souvenirs from waste resources
8. Upcycling of textiles and developing second-hand markets for clothes
9. Charcoal and biochar production from organic materials
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