Clean Blue Maldives

Clean Blue Maldives is supporting three islands in Baa Atoll (Maalhos, Dharavandhoo and Kihaadhoo) to end open burning of waste by the end of 2019. Our vision is to support the Maldives to develop a 2020-2030 plastic pollution mitigation strategy that catalyses a radical shift towards effective waste management.

Our Clean Blue Alliance initiative supports islands in accelerating solutions that eliminate plastic entering our seas and oceans.

Clean Blue Maldives was founded in partnership with Soneva in January 2019 to deliver ambitious reductions in single-use plastics alongside integrated waste solutions that can be scaled nationally.

Why the Maldives?

Of the 1,192 islands in the Maldives, 183 are inhabited by locals and visited by tourists. It’s the lowest country in the world, which means land-based waste is easily is washed into the sea.

The current system for managing waste across the islands is damaging the environment and threatening the local economy. Products are shipped in their millions to the more remote islands, which lack the infrastructure to handle the waste this generates. Open burning of waste is common, creating localised emissions of harmful pollutants.

Much of the country’s waste is dumped on the island of Thilafushi, with around 330 tonnes of rubbish arriving here every day. This island shows the stark contrast between the beauty of the islands, a draw for tourists, and the impact of development. Plastic pollution has the potential to impact the country’s tourism industry, which generates a significant share of the Maldives’ GDP (25% in 2016). The issue of plastic waste, and of mismanagement of waste more generally, highlights the urgent need to make the country’s economy (particularly when it comes to tourism) more sustainable.

There is hope. Led by the President’s Office, the Maldivian Democratic Party, government ministries and state-owned enterprises are taking positive steps to protect this tropical paradise, such as by banning the use of single-use plastic bottles.

The Process

How do the Maldives stem the flow of plastic into the Indian Ocean?

Clean Blue Alliance initiatives are designed around three principle elements:


Identify waste stream and leakage

In January 2019, Soneva and Common Seas facilitated a two-week accelerator to launch the Clean Blue Maldives initiative and co-develop its strategy. The event brought together island councils, government representatives, private business and local not-for-profits, which made for a dynamic, honest and fast-paced gathering.

During these two weeks, the group visited the waste management centres on Maalhos, Dharavandhoo and Kihaadhoo, as well as the Soneva Water (VITRIC) bottling plant and their Eco Centros. We had a meeting with the Technical and Vocational Centre (TVEC) on Dharavandhoo to explore the opportunity for a training course in waste management and engineering. Our visit to the ‘trash island’ of Thilafushi was a shocking experience and emphasised the critical need for waste management infrastructure in the Maldives. It was brave of the Government to facilitate this visit and to share their desire for collaborative solutions.

All stakeholders at the event signed the Clean Blue Maldives Charter which charts the course towards a Clean Blue Maldives.

Alongside this, we are working to build a thorough understanding of the islands’ plastic ecosystem, gathering baseline data on social factors, waste and marine litter audits for ongoing evaluation, and identifying opportunities to stop plastic entering Maldivian waters.

Using our Plastic Drawdown approach, we are working to support the Maldivian Government to create a 2020-2030 plastic pollution mitigation strategy.

Incubate and accelerate solutions

Clean Blue Maldives has a dual strategy:

  1. To radically reduce the volume of single-use plastics being used
  2. To optimise the management of plastic waste that remains
“I had a great time at the workshop, and it was a very valuable learning experience for me, especially given my specific mandate to communicate key initiatives of the government. Thank you so much inviting me and for the great arrangements. Really looking forward to Phase Two.” Ibrahim Hood
Chief Communications Strategist
President’s Office

In signing the Clean Blue Charter, the Maldivian government recognised the importance of the following proposals:

1. Radical reduction

  • Ban single-use water bottles:
    • No plastic bottles in government buildings by April 2019
    • No plastic bottles in resorts by 2020
  • Ban on plastic straws
  • Work towards establishing a Deposit Return Scheme for beverage drinks
  • Ban single-use plastic bags
  • Include reusable nappies in the government box provided to all new parents

2. Optimise waste management

  • Fully observed waste boats (cameras) to stop dumping at sea by mid-2019
  • Initiate the provision of sewerage systems and fresh water to all islands during this government’s term
  • Create eco-centro waste-to-wealth centres on all local islands in Baa Atoll, starting with co-funded pilots with Soneva on Maalhos, Dharavandhoo and Kihaadhoo (see below)

Implementing ‘waste-to-wealth’

Soneva is currently working on the islands of Maalhos, Dharavandhoo and Kihaadhoo to build eco-centros that can implement full-cycle ‘waste-to-wealth’ systems. The waste-to-wealth model was pioneered at Soneva Fushi, which is located close to Maalhos. The eco-centros aggregate clean bales of PET, HDPE, card, aluminium and organic waste, which are then chipped, ground down or composted. These materials are then turned into new products with economic value, such as concrete building blocks, fertiliser and other plastic products. The eco-centros record the material they collect, so they can measure impact and build an economic case for recycling.

© Julia Neeson

Replicate and scale best practice

In collaboration with Soneva, the island councils and with support from the Maldivian government, the plastic waste solutions we successfully demonstrate on Maalhos, Dharavandhoo and Kihaadhoo will inform national implementation.

To support the lasting reduction of plastic waste on the islands, the Clean Blue Alliance hopes to invest in local enterprises to collect, aggregate and re-use waste plastic materials, explore innovation in diaper waste management, secure financial support for additional eco-centros, and engage other high-profile resorts in the Maldives to phase-out single-use plastic water bottles by demonstrating the financial and environmental profits.

We aim to inspire other geographies to replicate successful solutions by celebrating leadership in the Maldives with national and global communication campaigns.

Soneva recycles or reuses 90% of its waste and has a zero-waste target. The company operates two resorts in the Maldives and has well-established plastic reduction and waste management initiatives. These provide a strong launchpad for the islands to begin their own journeys. Soneva has pledged funds from their Save our Seas programme to support Clean Blue Maldives.

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