Islands of Waste 1

[Thilafushi Island in the Maldives]

[Thilafushi Island in the Maldives]

If you’re planning a winter getaway to the islands this year, you might move beyond ‘eco-tourism’ to trash tourism, in this case, visiting the island of Thilafushi, just off the shores of the Maldives, an island country in the Indian Ocean formed by a double chain of twenty-six atolls. The country foregrounded itself on the headlines back in October, when the president of Maldives and members of his cabinet met underwater to stress the significance of rising seas. The name conjures images of azure seas and white beaches, but Thilafushi is an island of trash, created in the early 1990s on 7km lagoon called Thilafalhu, to solve the Maldives' mounting garbage problem. 

[An industrial waste-scape emerges from Thilafushi - built from, and for, trash]

The island has grown at the rate of a square metre a day, as more and more rubbish is dumped here. Mountains of rubbish - plastic, metal tins and rusty oil barrels – extend as far as the eye can see. Unlike the adjacent resort islands, the only visitors here are the Bangladeshi workers who wade through the sludge and brave the stench to burn the tonnes of refuse that arrive at the island every day, writes Maryam Omidi. Spotting the potential to generate revenue from the mushrooming island, the government decided to lease part of it for industrial purposes. Additional terrain was created using white sand and now giant cement cones, oil drums and the skeletons of future boats can be seen dotted around. Metal compactors compress junk into blocks for sale to India. Each tonne sells for US$175. The island has grown to such proportions that it now has a café, a restaurant, two mosques, a barbershop, a clinic, a police station and rather unexpectedly, a makeshift zoo.  Like  Wall-E's post-apocalyptic world, here is a society built around, and sustained by trash. The garbage is collected in the capital and separated before being transferred to Thilafushi on landing vessels. However, a major concern for environmentalists around the world, is the treatment of toxic wastes, which includes both e-waste and batteries According to Ali Rilwan, executive director of environmental NGO Bluepeace, these materials leech into the surrounding environment. "These chemicals remain forever and they are getting into the ecosystem and inside the reef," he said. "Unlike a landfill, this is a lagoon fill. It is a landfill in liquid form and so it absorbs these chemicals much more easily and this makes it more vulnerable."

[Does every island needs is trash alter-ego? Singapores Semakau island]

[Does every island needs is trash alter-ego? Singapores Semakau island]

Singapore built itself it's the Semaku, an island covering an area of 3.5 square kilometers and consisting of two small islands connected by a rock embankment.

[Eastern and Wester Pacific Gyres]

[Eastern and Wester Pacific Gyres]

Thilafushi,  of course, pales in comparison to Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a "plastic soup" of waste growing tenfold every decade, and now covering an area twice the size of the continental United States, scientists have said. [A new trash ecology emerges in the Pacific]

[A new trash ecology emerges in the Pacific]

The vast expanse of debris – in effect the world's largest rubbish dump – is held in place by swirling underwater currents. This drifting "soup" stretches from about 500 nautical miles off the Californian coast, across the northern Pacific, past Hawaii and almost as far as Japan. It is believed that 100 million tons of flotsam is circulating in the region, composed primarily of plastics – everything from footballs and kayaks to Lego blocks and carrier bag. Maybe we could capitalize on this: the ultimate flea-market, duty-free island in the Pacific, for all the cruise boats..?

InfraNet Lab

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