Beautiful natural beaches surrounded Villimale’, when it first became a residential island in the mid 90’s. It started out with only 7 families and reached 15,000 people by 2018. The beaches of Villimale’ are a favorite spot for weekend picnics. Back in the day people used the beach to wash and clean their pots and pans and also to throw away their (biodegradable) food waste into the sea. When plastic bags came into the picture, people started throwing out their food waste in plastic bags straight into the sea. There was usually however a designated area at the beach for dumping waste. Soon enough different types of trash started accumulating on the beaches, with little or no concern on the part of the community or the authorities, and the problem soon escalated. People had to swim in a lagoon full of trash. With concerns from surfers and the beach going community of Villimale’, Save the Beach Maldives (STBM) started the project, Conservation and Beatification of Villimale’, to protect the natural environment of the island and to maintain the conditions of the beaches and the surrounding reef. At the first ever clean-up of STBM in 2007, 3 tonnes of garbage were removed from the east beach only.
There were no base line surveys or audits of waste accumulating on the beaches of Maldives at the time STBM started it’s project. The first litter audit took place on Villimale’ east beach in 2012. Since then, a litter audit is done on the east beach every other year. Litter Audits help determine and understand how much litter is disposed over a given area over a period of time, and allowed us to observe the behavioral changes of the public after having introduced dustbins and signboards on the beaches of Villimale’.
Since placing dustbins in 2012, there has been a significant reduction in litter on visual observation on the beach. On week days, the beaches remain notably litter free. On Weekends, lots of people from Male’ and other islands visit the beaches and leave behind lots of litter. On the first litter audit in 2012, 72.78 kg of litter was collected and it was estimated that a total 14.91 tonnes of trash are littered on the east beach annually. However after 7 years of awareness programs, trainings, signboards and clean-up events, at the last litter audit in 2018 6.59 Kgs of litter was collected and it estimates that littering is down to 1.35 tonnes of trash annually. This is a 90% decrease in littering on the beaches of Villimale’ and a majority of people have started using the dustbins.
The litter from the beaches has significantly decreased but the amount of picnickers who use the beaches of Villimale’ increase every year.
This report consists and will elaborate on;
• Introduction to Villimale’ and scope of work by STBM
• The challenges to keep the beaches clean
• Objectives of doing litter audits
• Method of litter audit
• Audited sites
• Data analysis of litter audits
• Comparisons and extrapolation of litter audits from 2012 to 2018
Introduction of K.Villimale’
Villingili, administratively known as Villimale’, is an island in the North Male’Atoll and considered the fifth district of Male’, Maldives. It has a population of 15,000 people. The island lies about 2 kilometers (1.2 mi) west of Male’ island and is reachable via local ferry just 8 mins from Male . It has a 24-hour ferry service.
In the 1970’s Villimale’ used to be a resort. In fact Villimale’ was the second island developed to be a resort in the Maldives. A few guest rooms were developed on the northern and eastern side of the island with a restaurant and dive school . Then, Villimale’ was a island with naturals beaches surrounding the island. It was one of the best dive sites near Male’ with healthy reefs and the southeast channel is famous for diving with hundreds of sharks.
Plans for residential Villimale’ were developed around an environmental friendly island concept. Very few vehicles are allowed with permits issued for the police, hospital, electric company, few other heavy load vehicles and a buggy service operating as a taxi. 25% of the energy consumption of the island comes from renewable energy and is distributed to all households.
However after the development of harbors , jetties and reclamations, the natural environment of the island was impacted severely. With all the developments taking place , the island was left with only three small beaches. The beaches and reef which protect the island was fatally damaged. Most of the reef around the island were damaged by the reclamation and the development of harbors. The shoreline plants too disappeared. Save The Beach Maldives found the need to protect the island because it was the only island with natural beaches for use by more than a third of the Maldives population who lives in Male’, to go for picnics or to have a feel of the Maldives’ natural beauty.
STBM started cleaning the beaches of Villimale’ in 2007. During the first cleanup with the community in 2007, we collected more than 3 tonnes of litter from the East beach. There were lots of different types of trash from household waste to hazardous waste, including stoves, couches, beds, pillows, cupboards , TVs and oil barrels to name a few.
There are 40 dustbins placed on Villimale’ beaches today. On the east beach, there are 16 bins, with a dustbin to be found 100 feet of each other. Since placing dustbins STBM has been cleaning the dustbins and the beaches regularly in the morning every day. Clean-ups with schools and other organizations are also held every year at various events throughout the year. Several activities are held to create awareness and trainings have been conducted for the community.
In 2012 STBM started doing litter audits to determine the amount of littering on the beaches, to find out the impact of placing dustbins and to identify the behavioral changes of people after placing dustbins and signboards. Most importantly the litter audit helps determine if littering is decreasing or increasing on Villimale’ beaches.
More people were drawn to the beaches once regular cleaning of beaches started. Maldivians love a barbecue on the beach. But due to erosion and sometimes wind, barbecuers choose a site directly under a tree causing fire and heat damage to the trees, leading parts of the tree to die. This results in the thinning out of vegetation on the beach. They also throw burnt charcoal on the beach.
With the help of the community, STBM developed a barbecue area near the island’s industrial area and the Southwest beach. This is now the only area on a beach where barbecuing is allowed.
Villimale’ lies between the garbage island (Thilafushi) and Male’. Lots of trash drifts to the beaches of Villimale’ in easterly monsoon from the east where Male’ is, and in the westerly monsoon, from the garbage island to the west of Villimale’. This is one of the biggest challenges we face to keeping the beaches of Villimale’ clean. During the westerly season, the people of Villimale’ also suffer from bad air and the smoke from the open waste burning in the garbage island. The waste from greater Male’ and Male’ atoll is dumped in Thilafushi every day and while the waste is not managed properly it is open burned.
The cultural habit of throwing away our trash at the beach was another challenging factor faced at the beginning of the project. Since the introduction of plastic and plastic bags into our lives, lifestyles have dramatically changed.All household trash gets taken out in plastic bags, and even today, gets thrown in the sea, mixed with food waste and other recyclable items. If there is no waste management center on an island, larger household trash items will get thrown in the sea as well. Industrial waste gets dumped into the sea often, usually without being treated, not realizing we have made the waters toxic for the fish we eat and created an unhealthy ecosystem.
This practice is still happening all around the Maldives. We believe this was one of the reasons that we collected 3 tonnes of garbage at the first cleanup event held in Villimale’.
The primary objective of the litter audits are to determine how much litter get disposed on the beaches, after having placed dustbins. It also identifies the different types of litter on the beaches and helps with decisions on where to place dustbins and within what proximity. It also shows the changes in behavior of the community and the people who use the beaches.
The aim is to decrease the amount of litter on the beaches,by placing dustbins, and through awareness activities and cleanups, training sessions on waste management, and by placing signboards.
Litter is rubbish that is thrown away after use, such as paper, cans, and bottles left lying in an open or public place like the beaches, parks or the ocean.
First we estimate the area of the catchment(s) to be audited after which we estimate the sizes, number of sample areas and location of sample areas that will be used for the Litter Audit. We have to pay particular attention to prevailing environmental conditions and immediate environs and keep an awareness on the variable conditions affecting the audit result.
We have based our audits on a 7 day period for previous audits, therefore the same 7 day period was chosen for the 2018 audit as well. A minimum of 1 week is ideal for litter audits and the average will cover litter over the weekends as well as the weekdays.
The three sample sites which was used for previous audits was selected for this audit as well on the East beach to enable the comparison of yearly litter audits. We choose the most commonly used areas of Villimale’ East beach. The total length of the east beach is 105,400ft. Site 1 (100 x 100 ft, 10,000sq ft) is from the main beach area under the shade of the trees. Site 2 (70 x 100 ft, 7000sq ft) includes an area of the beach with the shoreline vegetation. Both these areas are used for camping, picnics and birthday parties because of the shade from trees. Site 3 (100 x 100ft 10,000sq ft) is chosen from the lagoon which most of the picnickers use for swimming and other water-related activities.
All the sites were cleaned prior to audit. The sites were then kept without cleaning for seven days to analyze the waste littered on the area. After 7 days we cleaned up the sites thoroughly to do the litter audit. The results of this audit will give the average of waste littered per day over the area during a 7day period.
In preparation for a litter audit, safety of participants were ensured as a first priority. Face masks, sanitizer, gloves and disposable coats (to cover the body) are used at the audit.
After collecting all the litter from selected audit sites separately, it is then segregated in different categories ei, paper and cardboard, organics, glass, plastics, ferrous metals, non-
ferrous metals, chemicals and hazardous waste, packing box & composites and everything else categorized under “others”. Materials like sand or rock stuck inside items, ceramic, textiles, wood and other miscellaneous items are recorded in the “others” category. The trash is then weighed separately in categories and the data is recorded on the data sheets accordingly and analyzed. The data sheets and the analysis of the litter audit are attached to the report.
The sites were selected from among the most common area used by picnickers. People use this area to enjoy the shade and play games like dodgeball or volleyball. Sometimes campers also use the area. Four volunteers cleaned the site in 1 ½ hours. Comparing with previous years the litter collected was less than expected.
Since developing a barbeque area on the south side of Villimale’ in 2013, picnickers are not using the East beach to do barbeques anymore, so no charcoal was found during this year’s litter audit. Few balloons from parties were found but not weighable. The same volunteers with three additional volunteers did the auditing of the site.
To clean up site 2 for the audit, it took 2 hours with six volunteers,. This site was audited by the same volunteers along with a few other volunteers who did the litter audit last year.
Comparing to the previous cleanups, less litter was found in the area. In a cleanup in 2012, 7kgs of dry diapers and pads were collected from the same location.
However still, lots of single-use plastic were found in and around the bushes.
Five packets of supari and one full packet of supari, 2 Band-Aids and a piece of a condom was not weighable.
The site was taken 100 ft from the shoreline vegetation with the lagoon. It took 2 ½ hours and three volunteers to clean the site while snorkeling to look for trash in the lagoon. In previous cleanups, lots of glass, cans, plates, and packets were seen closer to the restaurant areas. People used to throw “trash” into the lagoon while sitting in the restaurant. The depth of the lagoon is only a meter during high tide, and therefore very shallow. Some glass jars and single-use plastics were found.
Few items were not weighable like a piece of rubber, and one packet of soup which was found.
In total, the amount of litter collected is less compared to the previous litter audits of Villimale’ east beach. Since placing the dustbins on the beaches, the amount of litter on the beaches have decreased significantly in the past six years. Most of the picnickers who use Villimale’ east beach have started using the dustbins. There are dustbins placed on the east beach of Villimale’ 50 to 100 feet apart. Dustbins are within reachable distance from any location on the beach, and every dustbin has a message saying not to litter.
In previous years, lots of plastic from party poppers and balloons were found. This time only a few balloons were found. People still throw their litter inside the bushes, maybe because they don’t want it to be seen near them where they sit (out of sight out of mind). In general, the litter collected from the lagoon is less, but the same kinds of materials were found compared to previous audits. Previously spoons and cups have been found in the lagoon near the restaurant, but this year only one drinking glass was found.
All audits were overseen by Hassan Ahmed (Beybe) of Save the Beach Maldives.
Below are the details of litter collected during the December 2018 litter audit in Villimale’ east beach by category.
In the Others category, we recorded pieces of ceramic, textiles, foot ware, sand, cement roofing sheets, cigarette packets and filters.
A total of 72.78 kg litter was collected in 2012 during the litter audit. It was the first litter audit for Villimale’ east beach. Which meant that 72.78 kg of litter was disposed on just a part of the east beach within a week in 2012. Dustbins were then introduced to all the beaches of Villimale’. Beaches were cleaned daily in the morning along with the trash in dustbins. When we started cleaning the beaches, it attracted more people to the beaches because it became a clean and safe area to go swimming. Most importantly people could now enjoy the natural beaches of Villimale’ without feeling like they are sitting in a trash pit.
From the litter collected the category with the highest weight wasOthers – ceramic, textiles/fabrics/gloves, footwear, wood, charcoal, sand and water collected inside trashed items, etc. Next highest is the plastic bottles and other single-use plastics with 11 kgs.Making the comparison between categories by weight does not make for an ideal comparison, since the volume of plastics collected was a lot more but weighed less than the items in the Others category. 50 gms of charcoal from barbecues were found due to people using all the beaches around Villimale’ for barbecues with the east beach being the most commonly used beach. 7.83kgs of organic food waste was also found mostly from barbecues.
In average, the mass of litter per square feet at audit sites was 2.72 gm. The amount of litter disposed per day across the whole beach was 40.97 kg and annually amounted to 14.91 tonnes of litter and trash in 2012.
In 2014 the total litter collected at the audit was 68.29 kg. The amount of litter was slightly less than the previous litter audit collection. There was a reduction of 4 kgs from the 2012 litter audit which is only a 6% decrease. It still meant that people had started using the dustbins.
In general, more plastics and non-ferrous metals were found within the perimeters. Included in non-ferrous metals are aluminum cans, foils, contaminated foils, etc. meaning that people were still leaving their food and contaminated foils on the beach after use. Food litter was less than in the previous audit. Most litter collected belonged in the “Others” category. In the plastics category, plastics were sorted according to recyclable categories and plastics without recyclable marks. Plastics were the second highest weighing category but remained the single most highest weighing item on the audit.
Charcoal was found in both 2012 and 2014 audits and surprisingly more in 2014. After developing a barbeque area, more people used the designated area for barbecuing than at random spots on the beach, although people did use the beach still occasionally for making barbecues.
An average mass of 2.55 gm of litter per square feet were disposed on the audit sites . The amount of litter per day was estimated at 38.4 kg. The accumulated amount of litter per week was 269 kg and calculates to 13.9 tonnes of litter annually.
In 2016 the total amount of litter collected from three sites was 37.90 kgs. In percentages, it is 44% less litter compared to 2014. This is a good improvement in littering habits.
The litter that carried the most weight was wood. The wood pieces collected near the shoreline had algae and other organisms growing on it. That showed that most of the wood collected was drifted, while some were definitely clean cut wood pieces disposed off on the beach . Some of the picnic goers use wood pieces to sit on or to keep their food on. Some people take back the wood pieces after using, while others leave them behind on the beach. The second heaviest item recorded was construction blocks and plastics was the third.
It is also good to note that the usage of random spots on the beach for barbecue fires has almost completely ceased with no charcoal found at audit sites in 2016.
The average amount of litter disposed per day across the whole beach was 22.92 kg translating to 8.34 tonnes of litter annually.
The weighed litter is in grams because the litter collected in 2018 audit was less than a kg on all categories other than Glass, Plastic and Others.
In 2018, the amount of litter collected was less compared to all of the previous years. Most collected category of litter was plastics. In total, only about 7 kgs of litter were collected from the three sites. While some organic waste was found and notably no charcoal was found. The few metal items found included a lid, a piece of wire, steel cans, two aluminum cans and a piece of contaminated foil. Only one diaper and a medicine card were identified as hazardous. In the Others category there were some ceramics, textiles, footwears and a few cigarette filters.
Among the litter collected, nothing was identified as “household waste” in 2018.
The accumulated amount of litter per week across the beach was calculated at 25.98 kg and annually it comes to 1.35 tonnes of litter.
On average, from 2012 to 2018, plastic was the most collected single item on east beach. But over the years we have noticed that the amount of plastic litter is reducing. In all of the audits plastic remains one of the categories highest in volume compared to other categories. In 2012 there was 11.89 kg of Plastic, in 2014 it was 12.06 kgs, in 2016 it was 5.65 kg and in 2018 it was 3.45 kg.
According to a 2008 statistic from Environment Ministry, 62 tonnes of plastic are collected per day in the Maldives. Plastic is one the biggest problems for waste management in the Maldives, as is the case around the world. Comparing the data for plastic collection between 2012 and 2014, it shows that we collected 0.17 kg more in 2014. While the overall statistic show that the amount of plastic litter on the beach has reduced over time, the actual amount of plastic as a percentage of the total litter collected has not reduced. In 2012, plastics constituted 16% of the total litter, in 2014 it was 18%, in 2016 it was 15% and in 2018 plastics accounted for 52% of the litter collected at the audit. There is still a lot of single use plastic littered on the beaches.
Below are the plastic items that were found in the 2018 audit.
Lots of plastic drift to the beaches of Villimale’ either from Male’ or Thilafushi. Quite a lot of trash also gets into the sea while being transported from Male’ or other islands and resorts, due to waste not being properly stored on the boat. Occasionally, big plastic bags (240 liter bags) full of mixed waste from resorts and islands drift on to the beaches of islands. By identifying the waste we can differentiate whether it came from a local island or a resort, as there are significant differences in the products used. Usually waste from the resorts have branding on wrappers or the products itself will give away whether it is a hotel product or a household product. The waste from local islands are usually in small plastic bags. There are also 5 liter water bottles and household waste items.
In total, the amount of litter collected in 2018 was less compared to previous years. Only 6.59 kg of litter was collected from the 3 sites together.
As a percentage, there is a 90% decrease compared to the first litter audit from 2012. This is a very good sign of improvement in people’s behavior towards the use the beach and dustbins. It is wonderful achievement that between 2016 and 2018, the littering decreased significantly by 83%.
The general public who use the beach are seen to be more aware of the dustbins, since on visual observation, even over the weekends, the beaches seem a lot litter free and you can observe more people using dustbins compared to earlier years.
While a significant decrease is not visible in the first year after placing dustbins, since 2014 there has been a noteworthy reduction in littering behavior among beach goers. The data shows that amount of litter thrown on the beaches of Villimale’ slowly and steadily decreased until the last audit in 2018.
These litter audits prove the amount of litter on Villimale’ beaches are decreasing since dustbins were placed on the beaches. The amount of litter we had to audit had decreased significantly and when compared to the first audit in 2012, there has been a 90% reduction in litter on the east beach in 2018.
It can be safely said that most people use the dustbins on the beach in Villimale’. The amount of people using the beaches have not decreased, but rather on visual observation, the people who use the beach seem to have increased. Yet with this increase, it is very positive to note the reduction in litter. During the past six years, we have continued to carry out various awareness programs with the community and other organizations, conducted training programs, aired television infomercials, placed sign boards on the beach, replaced dustbins as required, organized cleanup programs and participated in cleanups organized by other institutions. Regular activities and actions have greatly assisted the Villimale’ community take on a sense of ownership towards keeping the beaches clean. The great news today is that the community of Villimale’ have forgotten how trashed the beaches were prior to 2012. Today, the residents of Villimale’ are very proud of their clean beaches.
Hassan Ahmed (Beybe)
All the data collected is from Villimale’ east beach. There can be variabilities on holidays, and weekends, and weather among other factors can affect the amount of litter on the beach. The most peak times of beach usage are the weekends and the holidays throughout the year.