The Maldives Ocean Plastics Alliance (MOPA), a local environmental NGO, launched a project on Sunday to collect used plastic bottles from 120 cafés, restaurants and retail outlets in the Greater Malé region.
PET bottles will be collected daily and sent to Parley Maldives for recycling, according to MOPA, which plans to expand the project to cover 200 outlets in Malé as well as Hulhumalé and Vilimalé.
The ‘Plastic Reverse Logistics Project’ also partners with local producers of plastic bottles, including the Malé Aerated Water Company, Happy Market and Island Beverages Maldives.
More than 280,000 plastic water bottles are used daily in Malé alone, according to estimates. Most households in the capital rely on bottled mineral water for drinking.
“Our innovative approach is founded on bringing together, manufacturers, importers, retailers, distributors and end users of PET bottles, as well as regulators and policymakers passionate about the reduce, reuse and recycle principle,” MOPA president Thoriq Ibrahim said at the launching ceremony held at Seahouse Café.
“We also welcome academics and the youth to join in. This project is designed for further expansion, and needs lasting commitment by stakeholders. Ours is a common goal. We are blessed with one of the most breathtaking natural environments in the world, and it is our responsibility to maintain it in pristine condition.”
Environment Minister Dr Hussain Rasheed Hassan, who inaugurated the project as guest of honour, pledged the government’s support and reiterated the policy objective of protecting marine ecosystems from plastic waste.
As part of the government’s plan to phase out single-use plastics, a ban on the import of several plastic items is due to come into force on 1 June 2021, including drinking straws; plates, cutleries and stirrers; styrofoam lunch boxes; 30×30 cm carrier bags; betel nuts in plastic wrapping; coffee cups below 250ml; cotton wool buds; 50 ml and smaller toiletry bottles; and PET beverage bottles below 500ml. Carrier bags below 50-micron thickness; 50-200 ml toiletry bottles; and, one-litre PET beverage bottles, will also be prohibited in December 2022.
More than eight million tonnes of plastic are dumped into the ocean annually, which is toxic when ingested by plankton, fish and other marine animals. Reefs are at risk as corals consume microplastics and are unable to expel the tiny fragments. If current trends continue, research shows that there will be more plastic in the sea than fish by 2050.