Dubai Airport's single-use plastic ban will begin on January 1, 2020 Image Credit: Courtesy of Dubai Airports

Dubai: The deadline to ban all single-use plastics at both of Dubai’s airports is looming.

The phased approach will see plastic cutlery, drinking straws, take-away food packaging and polythene bags removed from cafés, restaurants and shops at the world’s busiest international airport from January 1, 2020. During the next twelve months additional products will be replaced both in customer spaces and behind the scenes.

Pledge was made in June

Since the announcement was made to free Dubai International Airport and Dubai World Central Airport in June of this year, Dubai Airports has been working closely with more than 250 of its concession and hospitality partners to fulfil the promise by the beginning of the new year. With 90 million passengers passing through Dubai’s two airports – DXB and DWC – every year, consuming tens of thousands of plastic items from straws to water bottles to coffee lids daily, the plastic-free initiative has presented some serious challenges for those involved.

Long Journey

Eugene Barry, EVP Commercial at Dubai Airports said; “This pledge is another step on a long journey to becoming a more environmentally responsible airport. Along with our partners, including global brands such as McDonalds, Costa Coffee and Starbucks, we are committed to not only removing single-use plastics but in their place providing appropriate and importantly sustainable alternatives.

“Among the challenges faced, the biggest is sourcing alternatives for plastic bottles, one of the most frequently used and discarded pieces of single-use plastics. As we work to reduce and ultimately eliminate plastics from our airports, we are increasing our recycling facilities in the customer spaces and a new partnership that will allow us to properly dispose of thousands of tonnes of single-use plastic, each year,” added Barry.

The additional recycling points will also support with the management of the tens of thousands of bottles and waste brought in to the airport daily, something Dubai Airports’ expects will also decrease as people become more conscious of their usage. Results from a specially commissioned survey into the recycling habits of travellers showed an increased awareness, both around personal usage of plastic products and recycling, at home and while travelling.


In the UAE, over half (52 per cent) of respondents claim to carry a reusable water bottle while travelling, 49 per cent would choose to dine in an airport restaurant to avoid plastic packaging that comes with take-out food options, almost a third (32 per cent) of respondents refuse to buy items at the airport containing non-recyclable materials. And importantly, 92 per cent of respondents state that airports should be more vocal about what steps they are taking to recycle waste.

Moving forward through 2020, significantly more single-use plastic products will be replaced throughout the two airports by concession and hospitality partners.

Notable among them is fast food powerhouse, McDonald’s who will be replacing a total of 5,608,740 items with recyclable materials at Dubai’s two airports DXB and DWC.

Also, Costa Coffee which has committed to replacing its plastic-lined cups with a 100 per cent renewable, plant-based “smart” cup. The coffee giant uses over 2.6 million cups a year in Dubai’s airports alone, so a significant impact will be made. This will be shortly by the introduction of a coffee cup lid made entirely from wood and paper fibre instead of single-use plastic.