Solid Waste Disposal Project for an Island Community in Maldives


The issue:

The solid waste dumps that breed flies and vermin and blemish the beauty of the coral islands is a grave environmental issue in many of the islands of Maldives. The mixed solid wastes contains, bottles, cans, tires, etc that can pool water when the rain ceases, and make perfect breeding places for clouds of mosquitoes that invade the island, and take away precious space that island can use for recreation or for setting up space for an occupation. They way of disposal is usually through burning of the waste and this keeps the plume of smoke from the smouldering mounds continuously blowing into the community. From the point of view of environmental responsibility, this is highly irresponsible for this will in its small way – yet magnify ultimately – to the deteriorating state of the environment globally. Although this method of burning was the way these island communities did away with the biological waste of the past, modern day solid waste in the islands comprise of the above mix – the result of packaging that have come to signify the new age of globalization and trade facilitation. The result is a ballooning of the amount of trash that is produced even in these islated islands, for no sellable commodity is far from even the remotest corner of the globe. As a result of the community’s ignorance, such material accumulate and become a nuisance and huge health hazard. Yet, they are unable to address this due to lack of awareness and concerted community action . This means we have to get this message across to the people, and energize them to action with the understanding that they create their own ill health and the consequences of the damage. environment. 


The approach:

The secret of make our waste work for us is through segregation before disposal. By segregating waste, we maximize our opportunity of using the three “R”s to our advantage. We will be able to recover a lot of useful items that can be REUSED; segregation will REDUCE the volume to be disposed of if we want to dispose any of it. And we can RECYCLE much of what we segregate – such as plastics, glass and, and metals.   The rubble type of waste from construction sites can be also crushed and used to pave side walks, lay floors, and even use in house building in many innovative ways. What remains would be organic stuff. This organic waste may not have to be thrown away as it also can be recycled into useful food for plants. The compost thus produced would be a very precious commodity for Maldives, where humus is in very short supply. Just to spread as topsoil for the ground or use as fertilizer for growing fruits and vegetables. 


Implementing the approach:

The community’s belief and involvement in this endeavour would be paramount. How we do this is the stuff of health promotion. We need to convince and persuade the community through making them exposed to the costs and benefits of this process. When people can see the true benefits of segregating waste they will gladly comply. Knowing what is in it for them as benefits, will move them to be partners in the process. Getting people involved is ultimately about getting people to believe in the thing to be done. The techniques of health promotion – dialogue, teaching, persuading, orienting demonstrating, and negotiating are all ways to employ for getting the public to be believers in this 3R method.  

Once we can get a few believers, we must consolidate this by quickly showing the evidence to convince others to follow suit. Cautious people will always wait and watch to see if it really works. So those who will be the initial takers will have to be supported adequately to show that this can work. Providing some supplementary support in someway may be necessary.  

The policy thus laid – agreement by the community to have a 3R program established as a beginning of the decision -  implementation process can begin by preparing a good action plan. The community leaders from all walks must take part and sit through together for a day or so perhaps to get have this plan completed. Selecting a Friday to do this will be good as most people will be available on the island on this day.  

The plan of action will have to outline the materials each household will need for storing the segregated materials before taking these to specified locations for packing and temporary storing. Listing the needs and what to do to each type of the waste will have to be outlines. For example, having plastic bins that will collect the separate items and where these will be disposed and how these are going to be handled before disposal or dispatched. Detailed procedures on how this is to be done at the household has to be done. 

REDUCING: How are we going to actually reduce the amount of waste we produce? This is done by refusing some of the things we get when we shop. For example the packing, or the bags – especially the plastic bags – that shops give us. By carrying a cloth bag or other bag when we go to the shop will eliminate the extra bag we have to carry home. This needs a very big change of the mind to really feel the need to protect our environment. The newly built inland harbours accumulate so much of muck – bottles, plastic bags and such stuff – collecting at the corners of this place really making for an ugly sight. But the plastic bags are a very big menace to the beauty of the coral surroundings. 

REUSING: This is also a mindset change to realize that we throw away a lot of what we can reuse. Maybe glass bottles can be receptacles for various things, we can make handicrafts with throwaways. List out what can be reused. Again a focus group discussion can reveal a good list of items. 

RECYCLING: How is the recycling stuff to be collected, stored, and dispatched? Who will be responsible for managing this part of the strategy. Bottles – plastic and glass, and metal items can be all used for recycling. An agreement or understanding with a neighbouring resort or with government for dispatch on a regular schedule. The organic material can be composted. For this we will need to have this skill learned and various methods used. And later this compost generated must be used for home gardening. This method has to be taught. Partnership with the Ministry of Agriculture can help with capacity building. Or some NGOs can help with training and information sharing. The government can even be persuaded into getting some community leaders who are involved with this program see examples from other countries through access to study tours to neighbouring countries – like India, Sri Lanka and Nepal -- who are experts on this. 


Project management:

There will be a project leader/manager: A project office has to also be provided with a couple of support staff to manage and coordinate this work. It is best if their salaries are provided by the community as this will make them accountable to the community. If the government provides the salaries and allowances, this may be hijacked by the bureaucratic process. A clean beginning needs to be made so that honest and responsible program staff can be nurtured and community confidence in the program maybe sustained. The tactic will lie in the ingenuity of the community people to provide the resources for this to be sustained. The strategy can be a for profit or a break-even approach; depending on community thinking.  

Coordination will be needed for supervising the regular collection of the solid wastes from the households (on rainy days and sunny days). Who will collect, dispose – properly and according to the norms established; the quality of storage and overseeing the dispatch; getting labour as needed for efficiency (full time vs temporary- for efficient use of resources)? 

Staff management: Need to develop approach to manage staff in the project. These include scheduling work, dispensing incentives, giving leave, making payments and supervising the quality of work.

Coordination will also be needed for overseeing the composting process also. Who will do this as a daily work process and how the output is going to be used – free or for sale. How training programs will be managed, and sustained. 

Supplies replenishment – receptacles for collection of waste, implements for composting,



The island community will benefit from the reduction of the risk of disease particularly dengue and the reduction of flies and other disease related insects. By composting there will be the elimination of smoke, fumes and other toxic gases that would otherwise sweep through the island. Other benefits will be that of aesthetics that the community will enjoy by having beach surroundings for recreation, exercise or leisure walks and plenty of safe space for children to play. The island will also benefit from guest house tourism when there is clean beach and healthy environment that will be the draw of people visiting the island. 



As start up, an initial sum of 20,000 USD will suffice to get the project rolling. The major input will be collection bins and preparing dumping and composting sites. Money will be needed also for training of community facilitators for this work. As recurrent cost, there will be the running of the office that will oversee the work in the future and see to its sustainability. This recurrent cost will be generated by small charges to the households when there is a bit more confidence in the project for its benefits.