Students compete in ‘Zero Waste Challenge’ to clean local island

School children across the island of Maalhos in Baa atoll have competed in a ‘Zero Waste Challenge’ to increase community recycling and help rid the island of single-use plastics and other garbage that spoil the natural environment.

The challenge has pitted different grades at the local school against each other. The school grade that manages to collect and segregate most garbage, which is then sent for recycling, wins the challenge.

The competition ran from May 19 to June 15. The winners will be announced June on 19.

Students, their parents and teachers collected recyclable waste such as plastics and tin cans, and stored them in bags. On assigned days, the waste was counted and points given based on total weight.

If students had failed to properly clean the recyclable waste, they did not gain any points. Cans and bottles had to be washed and cleaned to ensure that there was residual food or drink. This was so items were stored nicely at home or school, and didn’t smell or attract insects, until they were collected for recycling or processing.

Students were encouraged to collect litter from around the island but were not allowed to consume more products to increase their score.

The ‘Zero Waste Challenge’ is part of the ‘Namoona Baa’ initiative, launched in February by the island council presidents of Maalhos, Dharavandhoo, and Kihaadhoo in partnership with Soneva, which run the neighbouring Soneva Fushi resort. ‘Namoona Baa’ was launched in response to the waste and plastics crisis that is overwhelming the Maldives and ruining the environment.

“Our students have learnt the importance of reducing, reusing and recycling waste in order to keep a clean and healthy environment. This first-hand experience of zero waste will shape students’ lives to be brighter and healthier in future,” Abbas Hussein, Maalhos School Principal, was quoted in a statement, as saying.

Prizes for school grades that collect the most recyclables include a trip to snorkel with manta rays at the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve of Hanifaru Bay, a lesson in astronomy at the Soneva Fushi observatory, and for younger children, a day-trip to The Den, the outstanding children’s play park at Soneva Fushi.

“What is taking place in Maalhos is an inspiration. The Zero Waste Challenge has inculcated positive behaviour, and households are now used to segregating waste and preparing it for recycling. Maalhos has never looked so clean, because students have been picking up litter from the beaches and the jungle,” Khady Hamid, Community Engagement Manager at Soneva Fushi, said.

As part of the ‘Namoona Baa’ initiative, Maalhos, Dharavandhoo and Kihaadhoo island councils have also pledged to end the open burning of island waste, in a radical shift towards eco-friendly waste management.

Each island will create an Eco-Centro waste-to-wealth centre that will sort, recycle and reuse island waste. The Eco-Centro waste-to-wealth model was pioneered at Soneva Fushi, which is supporting ‘Namoona Baa’. At the resort, food and organic waste, metals, and bottles are chipped, ground down or composted, and turned into things of economic value, such as concrete building blocks and fertiliser. Plastic waste is either recycled or used to create useful new objects.

Soneva has pledged funds from its Soneva Namoona programme to support creating the Eco-Centros on Maahlos, Dharavandhoo, and Kihaadhoo.

The first Eco-Centro is due to open in Maalhos this year. The open burning of garbage in Maalhos is expected to end shortly after the island’s Eco-Centro is fully operational.

Soneva is a pioneering family of hospitality properties and products, offering holistic encounters in luxurious and inspiring environments – from world class hotels to outstanding natural locations. Combining luxury with a conscientious approach to sustainability and the environment, and proactively changing the nature of hospitality, it delivers intuitive service and meaningful experiences to the guests.

Soneva currently owns and operates Soneva Fushi, Soneva Jani and Soneva in Aqua in the Maldives, and Soneva Kiri in Thailand.

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