Sara Grannell (second from left), marketing and PR manager for Lush, with store employees Claire Fisher (centre) dressed as the ‘Bag Monster’. Image Credit: Carolina D’Souza/Gulf News

Dubai: Thousands of shoppers were handed eco-friendly totes bags in exchange for their plastic bags at a shopping mall on Tuesday.

The ‘Monster Bag’ campaign was inspired by the UAE’s objective to ban plastic bags by 2013 and endorse substitutes such as jute, paper or biodegradable plastic bags.

In an effort to raise awareness, organisations, Recycle for a Cause and Plastic Not So Fantastic expedition, along with the Ministry of Environment and Water supported Lush Cosmetics that organised the campaign at their stores in the UAE.

The used plastic bags were collected by a ‘bag monster’ — the person designated to approach shoppers, and ask for their plastic bags in return for a free eco-friendly tote. The bags were pinned onto the person’s attire.

Shoppers were also handed out educational fliers that highlighted the adverse environmental effects of using plastic. The collected bags will be recycled into attractive carrier bags by local charity Recycle for a Cause.

“We expect to get thousands of bags from this campaign,” Susan Tabler from Recycle for a Cause told Gulf News

Speaking of the collaboration between Plastic Not So Fantastic expedition, its founder David Wernery told Gulf News: “We were approached to share UAE facts and figures on current plastic usage and waste management, and to talk about the environmental issues that face the country. We also collaborated with other supporters including Recycle for a Cause and Goumbook, the first Green Website dedicated to the Middle East, to work towards the plastic bag ban.”

Gulf News has been a big supporter of environmental initiatives. The newspaper launched the ‘No to Plastic Bags’ campaign four years ago in response to hundreds of camels and gazelles dying in the desert after eating plastic bags. And, in a bid to reduce the use of plastic bags, Gulf News distributed 200,000 free jute bags to subscribers.

Sara Grannell, spokesperson from Monster Bag told Gulf News the campaign had been launched for the first time in the UAE. “It is active in our stores worldwide.”

She said the UAE used approximately 11.6 billion petroleum-based shopping bags each year. “We realised that shoppers do not recycle enough. People tend to believe that when they leave plastic bags, someone will clean up after them. The deserts are littered with plastic bags, harming camels who mistaking them for food. As a retailer, we are in a position to reach out to people.”