Editors' Picks Environment

Why it’s time to ban the bottle and the bag

Take a morning stroll along any beach in the Maldives and you’ll be confronted with the same sights: swaying palms, crystal clear waters, powder-soft sand – and plastic rubbish everywhere. 

The Maldives is awash with plastic pollution, with single-use water and cola bottles littering the roads, beaches and lagoons, and plastic bags getting caught up in coral reefs. Meanwhile, with no proper waste disposal, every local island in the country burns plastic waste in poisonous bonfires.

Our beautiful country is in danger of becoming another Bali: a once-pristine, tropical tourist paradise ruined by plastic litter.

We don’t want to be known as a dirty country. This is why the undersigned island council presidents, members of parliament, and resort operators are calling on President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih to tackle the source of the scourge and impose a nationwide ban on single-use plastic bags and bottles.

Other countries have already implemented similar bans. Kenya recently banned single-use plastic bags, as has the Pacific atoll nation of Vanuatu. Next year, France will implement a total ban on plastic cups, plates, and cutlery.

In the Maldives, lots of resort islands have stopped using single-use plastic bags and bottles. Many resorts produce their own drinking water, served in reusable glass bottles. Guests almost never complain about the bottled water. In fact, the vast majority are pleased they are not contributing to the litter problem. Meanwhile, lots of Maldivians now use reusable plastic or cloth bags for shopping.

Local islands are also moving away from single-use plastics. In our atoll of Baa, a social enterprise run in collaboration with Soneva and the community in Maalhos provides shops and households with drinking water in reusable glass bottles. The water, produced and bottled on the island, is cheaper to buy than plastic bottled water. Over 80 per cent of households in Maalhos have switched to water in reusable bottles since the plant opened in 2018. This year, it will supply drinking water to neighbouring Dharavandhoo. In Alif Alif atoll, Ukulhas, the island council has launched the Plastic Noon Gotheh (a way without plastic) campaign to reduce the island’s plastic use.

Not every local island is lucky enough to have a sustainable water company or a pioneering local council. Local islands will need support to move away from single-use plastics. But many local councils are keen to try and help clean up their islands.

Just a handful of local companies, some of which are state-owned, produce most of the plastic bottles littering our beaches. Surely these companies can switch to reusable bottles as companies do in other countries? In fact, back in the 1990s, all fizzy drinks in the Maldives were produced in reusable glass bottles.

The Maldives would probably need to give some lead-in time before a national plastic bottle and bag ban is introduced, to give people time to adapt. Island communities and local companies will likely require government support to help them make the transition. Change is possible. The alternative is ever more plastic washing up on our beaches and fouling the country’s valuable image.

President Solih’s administration was elected on a pledge to tackle the plastic pollution problem. We would like to support the president as he delivers on his promise. Please impose a national ban on single-use plastic bags, bottles and straws, which are needlessly tarnishing our beautiful country, and damaging the tourism industry upon which we all depend.

Signed,

ISLAND COUNCILS 

Abdulla Shujau, President, Maalhos Council Ibrahim Fazeel, President, Kihaadhoo Council Ali Maajid, President, Dharavandhoo Council. Hawwa Sameeha, Vice President, Eydhafushi Council Mohamed Amir, President, Goidhoo Council Ahmed Rasheed, President, Thulhaadhoo Council Abdul Azeez Mohamed, President, Hithaadhoo Council Abdul Hanaan Abbas, President, Kudarikilu Council Ahmed Saleem, President, Kendhoo Council Ahmed Sameeru, President, Kamadhoo Council Ahmed Asif, President, Fulhadhoo Council Moosa Naseem, President, Fehendhoo Council Ali Rasheed, President, Dhonfanu Council

MPs 

Ali Hussain, MP for Kendhoo constituency Hisaan Hussain, MP for Thulhaadhoo constituency Ahmed Saleem, MP for Eydhafushi constituency

RESORTS 

Sonu Shivdasani, Owner, Soneva Fushi. Shabeer Ahmed, Chairman of Coco Collection, on behalf of Coco Palm Dhuni Kolhu Mark Hehir, CEO of The Small Maldives Island Co., on behalf of Amilla Fushi Marc Reader, General Manager, Finolhu Giles Selves, Cluster General Manager, Anantara Kihavah Ismail Shafeeu, Chairman, Dhigufaru Island Resort Armando Kraenzlin, Regional Vice-President and General Manager, Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Landaa Giraavaru

Full details are available at the link below:

Source URL:  Maldives Independent

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