Being an outsider, a Westerner, we’ve pinned the Maldives as a pristine and exotic beauty, but what you find in the Maldives, is really quite different. There’s more than just white beaches, clear water, and beautiful islands. Each year many tourists visit the Maldives and this results in some serious waste management issues. Waste has blighted the scenes of paradise that most tourists would expect from the Maldives. Within this post, I would like to reveal more of the waste management issues of the Maldives and show to you that tourism has some ugly and bad sides too. Why? Well, I am pretty sure you’re not likely to see or hear anything about this trash island of the Maldives on Instagram.

Thiladushi, trash island of the Maldives

In the middle of the Maldives lies an artificial landfill called Thilafushi, the garbage island of the Maldives. Thiladushi is literally built on trash. It once was a lagoon. Then it was excavated and filled with garbage. The island daily receives tons of garbage like plastic items, metals, and clothes. It basically receives everything that people throw away. The trash either combusts or gets recycled. It looks horrible. Believe me. Just see some of the photos of Thilafushi on Business Insider. It will break your heart.

Some of the garbage on the island is toxic, which makes the water around the island toxic as well.  There’s even a haze in the air and that’s going in the atmosphere obviously. The government estimates that 25% of the garbage even gets lost in the Indian ocean. I am not surprised by this. The past years I’ve seen many garbage, especially plastic, floating in the ocean and finally washing up on beaches which are littered in those plastics. It’s sad to see this happening. Of course Thilafushi isn’t the only trash island in the world. There’re plenty of versions like this island, but then more like garbage dumps and landfills throughout countries.

Photo by Hermes Rivera

Trash isn’t only produced by tourists

Of course it’s easy to point a finger at tourists and blame them for the pollution problem. Teleologically speaking, sure. Tourists leave a lot of waste, and the aggregated effect is an island full of trash. Trash however isn’t only produced by tourists. There’s a growing issue in the maldives in general. The inhabitants itself are also part of the waste management issues. Locals travel on public holidays and weekends to the so-called ‘picnic islands’, literally islands where they picnic. Here you also find plenty of washed up trash.

The problem is that we as humans are great at supplying need and demand, but we’re not great at fulfilling the cleanup afterwards. We often are disconnected with our trash. Once it’s away from us, it’s gone, but it doesn’t go forever. It’s not automatically recycled or destroyed. Trash is like glitter through the house. You will never get it all.

Tom from the Treader Tube made a nice video impression of his visit to Trash Island in the Maldives:

How to solve the trash problem in the Maldives?

How do we solve all of this? Well it isn’t that easy. The Maldives is the most dispersed country in Asia. All the islands and limited space on land for agriculture, make that most products are imported.

A good start will be to change our mindsets and to take initiative. Several grass-roots and government programs have already sponsored island-wide cleanups and recycling drives. Other campaigns have provided education for locals in proper waste reduction and recycling techniques. These are great initiatives, but we shouldn’t forget that it all starts with our own consciousness. Some simple ways to reduce waste while traveling are to bring a reusable water bottle, reduce one use plastic, bring totes, skip to-go packaging, visit Eco friendly restaurants, and to be mindful of waste.

I hope I didn’t ruin all your dream images of the Maldives. The Maldives for sure are beautiful and well worth a visit! I just wanted to bring some awareness and let you know that the Maldives are quite different from what most people think.


Have you visited the Maldives and experienced any waste management issues? I am curious about your experience. Let me know about it in the comment section below.

Thank you for reading and don’t forget to pin this post so you can easily find it back!

Author: Daphne

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