The Maldives, in the Indian Ocean, is known for its beautiful sunsets and scenery, including clear turquoise waters and coral reefs for snorkeling, scuba diving and other water sports. One of the island nation’s top resorts, is taking a stand against plastic, by melting down plastic waste to recycle into flower pots, bowls, even children’s toys.
Soneva Fushi already limits the amount of plastic used on-site – it banned the use of plastic water bottles in 2008 – yet small amounts still arrive with food transportation and as guests’ rubbish.
The resort has a target of zero waste, and already recycles 90% of its solid waste, with glass, food waste, jungle trimmings and polystyrene all processed on-site. Now, the focus is on tackling the last 10%, which includes small amounts of plastic, paper, cloth and Tetra Pak packaging.
Soneva Fushi calls the plastic recycling effort the Soneva Maker Program, and it’s a first in the Maldives. The resort is sharing the idea with other Maldives resorts, to help minimize the effects of plastic on the fragile local environment, including sea life, including endangered Hawksbill turtles.Using both local materials and local ingenuity, the resort has fabricated a plastic recycling machine, at its Eco Centro facility. Guests, especially children, are invited to get creative with the plastic waste.
It’s part of the resort’s plan to encourage guests and hosts (employees) to participate in recycling initiatives, and to educate younger guests about how things are made and to emphasize the brand’s signature Waste-to-Wealth concept.
Plastic waste is a well-documented issue in the Maldives, with ocean plastic regularly washing up on its pristine beaches. It’s a global scourge, and was a topic at the recent United Nations Environment Assembly in Kenya, where representatives put forward a UN resolution to completely stop plastic waste from entering the oceans.
Soneva believes that part of the solution is to demonstrate the value of plastic waste recycling to local economies, inspiring communities to collect and reuse plastic before it has a chance to enter our oceans.
Once established at Soneva Fushi, the program will be extended so that Soneva resorts recycle plastic collected from neighboring resorts and islands.
Soneva already extends its Waste-to-Wealth efforts beyond the resort for the Soneva Art & Glass program, upcycling waste glass bottles collected from neighboring islands in the region.
Every month, between 1,100 and 2,200 pounds of glass is collected, washed, crushed and prepared for recycling by the Eco Centro team, and delivered to the resort’s Glass Studio, where it is melted down in the company’s state-of-the-art glass furnace. Local artisans use a variety of techniques, including blowing, casting and slumping, to create pieces of art.
The resort also has a strong water conservation program, sourcing all its water sustainably, and is 100% self-sufficient – 40% rainwater collected, 15% deep well and 45% desalination. Plus, there are additional water-saving practices, including water-saving shower heads and aerators in taps.
Soneva Fushi is on the Baa Atoll, one of the largest islands of the Maldives, within the protected UNESCO Baa Atoll Biosphere Reserve.
North of Male’ this Reserve comprises 75 islands, 13 of which are inhabited by a population of approximately 12,000 people, and ten of which are holiday resorts.
The water depth varies considerably and includes lagoons with depths ranging from 30m to 80m, opening into the Indian Ocean, while channels running through the atoll are up to 250-300m in depth. The lagoons enclose a variety of reef structures including faros, micro-atolls, patch reefs and knolls.
The main habitat are coral reefs, islands, sea grass beds and mangroves. The coral reefs support a high diversity of reef animals, including approximately 250 species of stony and soft corals, and 1,200 reef and reef-associated fish species, a population of marine turtles, manta rays, whale sharks and seabirds.
Of the seven species of marine turtles in the world, five species have been recorded in the Maldives: the green turtle, hawksbill turtle, olive ridley turtle, loggerhead turtle and leatherback turtle. Baa Atoll is the best place to see them, with the most frequent sightings being of hawksbill turtles.
BTW – Soneva is named for its two founders, Sonu and Eva. There are three Soneva resorts in Maldives and another in Thailand.
Photo of turtle deformed by plastic waste courtesy Inhabitat