Thani Ahmad Al Zeyoudi (left) with Jamal Mohammad Al Hai, FNC member from Dubai, on the sidelines of the FNC session in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday. Image Credit: Abdul Rahman/Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: A new minister of Climate Change and Environment on Tuesday vowed to curtail use of plastic bags and achieve the goal of making the UAE free of plastic bags.

In his first appearance in the Federal National Council, Thani Ahmad Al Zeyoudi, Minister of Climate Change and Environment, said doing what it takes to achieve the goal of making the UAE plastic-bag free is a priority.

The minister did not give a time-frame as to when this goal will be achieved.

Hamad Ahmad Al Rahoumi, a member of the House from Dubai, put a question to Al Zeyoudi on why the ministry did not meet deadlines to stop the use of non-biodegradable bags in line with the policy and strategy of the ministry to protect the nation’s environment.

“Ministry statistics showed residents use a whopping 11 billion plastic bags annually but the ministry failed to meet deadlines ever since the ‘Make UAE Plastic Bags Free’ drive was launched in 2009,” Al Rahoumi said.

Questioning the credibility of the ministry, Al Rahoumi said the campaign to make the UAE free of plastic was welcomed and received the support of the people, but the ministry did not commit users of plastic bags to quit using these bags and to use environmentally friendly ones instead.

The initiative particularly aimed to limit the negative impacts of non-biodegradable plastic bags on human health, other creatures and the environment through cutting down the quantity of these bags used in the UAE as a gradual step towards the final prohibition and replacement with biodegradable plastic bags and alternative bags.

Al Rahoumi said the ministry has missed many deadlines, including one at the beginning of 2013 banning the use of non-biodegradable plastic bags across the country.

The initiative was based on four main phases which would be focused on simultaneously focused — the community’s education about the initiative and the hazards of non-biodegradable plastic bags, the alternatives of non-biodegradable plastic bags, relevant laws and regulations and the enforcement of these laws and regulations.

Many studies and scientific research highlight the health damage caused by compounds that are used in the production of plastic materials, especially on children, foetuses and the environment as a result of excessive use. The misuse and careless disposal of these materials leads to suffocation, especially among children, and death of wild animals and marine life.

Al Rahoumi said that 80 to 90 per cent of the ministry’s target was not achieved.

Before the end of 2011, manufacturers and suppliers of plastic bags were supposed to have registered their biodegradable products in accordance with the Emirates Conformity Assessment System (ECAS). A list of requirements and conditions applicable in this regard and in accordance with the UAE standard specifications (5009:2009) have to be met by the manufacturers.