Abu Dhabi skyline
Abu Dhabi. Image Credit: Supplied

Abu Dhabi: The Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi (EAD) has announced a plan to make the emirate free of single-use plastic bags by 2021.

The agency made the announcement as part of a new policy to reduce single-use plastics.

According to a report presented in the World Government Summit in February 2019, 11 billion plastic bags are used annually in the UAE, which is the equivalent of 1,184 plastic bags per person per year compared to a global average of 307 plastic bags per person per year.

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Dr Shaikha Salem Al Dhaheri, Secretary General of the EAD, said: “The launch of the single-use plastics policy reflects our steadfast commitment towards transitioning to a more sustainable economy that seeks to minimise waste and protect vital ecosystems in our environment.

“By implementing this new policy, Abu Dhabi will be joining more than 127 countries around the world that have already taken measures to ban or limit the use of disposable plastic materials.

“Our policy is aligned with international standards in order to make Abu Dhabi a pioneer in reducing the use of avoidable single use materials by 2021.”

Developed in line with international standards, the policy will be implemented over the next two years in co-ordination with government and private stakeholders and has been prepared with the support of Emirates Nature WWF and 12 other government entities, including the Department of Economic Development.

Six major outlets and many private sector entities producing plastic materials in Abu Dhabi were also involved, the agency said.


The scope of the policy includes developing legislation to limit the use of all plastic materials in Abu Dhabi gradually with a phased approach with incentives to target consumption of single use plastic bags.

To realise Abu Dhabi’s vision for an environmentally, socially and economically sustainable waste management system, the policy identifies the 16 most common single-use plastics that cause the largest amount of marine waste (according to global studies) and will be targeted to varying degrees during the new policy implementation.

These include plastic bags, beverage cups and lids, plastic cutlery, straws and stirrers and food containers. Plastic bottles will be targeted through the introduction of a plastic bottle return deposit scheme.


The will also be mulling of introducing fees on some materials which have available alternatives to prevent distribution of single-use plastic materials free of charge and, finally, achieving a total ban.

Dr Al Dhaheri said: “If we do not take bold steps to contain the use of single-use plastics through influencing behavior and effective waste management, there will be more plastic than fish in the oceans and seas by 2050 – creating lasting impacts on, not just ocean health, but ultimately human health and global food security.

“An estimated 13 million tonnes of plastic enter the world’s oceans annually, altering vital habitats, endangering marine wildlife and impacting the food chain by releasing toxic chemical compounds.

“This issue is a grave concern for the preservation of our local species, posing a threat to our marine wildlife, sea turtles and seabirds, among others. Our policy responds to this global issue.”


Studies show that 36 per cent of the global production of single use plastics are not recycled and globally more than 400 million tonnes of different types of plastics are produced every year.

As a result of high consumption rates and low recycling operations, by 2050 it is expected that for every three tonnes of fish in the ocean, there will be one tonne of plastic.