The war against plastic continues to gain momentum as more governments and private organisations step up to reduce the impact of what used to be a light and handy convenience for all to what is now considered a danger to human life and one that must be eradicated. The problem is so vast in scope that it has become a matter of survival where we must make a drastic choice between the planet or plastic, says National Geographic’s social media campaign with the hashtag #PlanetorPlastic.
Studies have shown the extent of plastics’ effects on the environment, on animals, and even on man’s health. They reveal how toxins from plastic waste have compromised animal habitats and led to the loss of lives.
Yet, putting a full stop to its use remains a challenge for many as we have grown deeply dependent on its convenience. However, we all know that disposing them has always been the main concern.
Millions of dollars are spent each year to clean up polluted areas, which mostly come from plastic waste, in response to the slowdown in tourist footfall in affected areas, thus significantly impacting the economies of these places. In the UAE, the private sector has started to act seriously to this environmental problem in response to the many evidence that point to ingested plastic-based littering as the culprit in the deaths of birds, camels and other animals.
Dubai alone has generated about 1 million tonnes of public waste in 2017, which may include up to 3.6 million pieces of plastic bags that were reportedly used in the same year. Despite the many solutions offered to address plastic waste such as recycling or the introduction of the “biodegradable” material, the amount of plastic waste that goes into seas and landfills still do not provide adequate solutions to the problem.
There is a growing call worldwide to eliminate single-use plastic and packaging through campaigns and legislations to deliver the urgency of these message. Dubai received the Guinness World Record this year in forming the longest line of plastic bottles — a total of 58,447 — collected from schools, children, and other community members during a 10-day collection drive to highlight the importance of developing positive environmental behaviour and get individuals, schools, and businesses to commit to reducing their single-use plastic and packaging consumption.
People elsewhere are also standing up against plastic pollution. In July 2016, France banned the free distribution of thin, single-use plastic bags typically distributed at grocery stores. Ireland was the first country to place a significant tax on plastic bags, and Morocco has legislated the full ban of plastic use.
The UAE is following in the same direction and the government is working on legislations to ban the use of plastic bags across the country. Some leading restaurants and F&B outlets in Dubai have pledged to stop single-use plastic in their services.
Countries are starting to respond and the participation from the private sector is a welcome move that could change the game. Because now the race is towards providing a more sustainable way of consumption. It is a clear case of commitment and sending the strong message that yes, a better way of doing business can be done without harming the planet.
Nidal Abou Zaki is Managing Director, Orient Planet Group.