A man walks past some of the plastic bags which litter the streets of Ajman. The production of non-biodegradable plastic bags will be banned in Ajman, the first emirate to act on the nationwide decree. Image Credit: Francois Nel/Gulf News

Ajman: Turning Ajman's plastic industry into an eco-friendly one is "not a trial", said the emirate's Environmental Protection department head Wednesday.

By the end of this year, all plastic bags in Ajman just be biodegradable.

The emirate's move comes three years ahead of the Federal Government, which has decreed that all plastic bags made anywhere in the UAE must be biodegradable by the end of 2013.

Ajman Municipality Environmental Protection head Yasser Kayed said he hoped that within six months there would be no plastic bags littering the emirate's streets.

Inspections would be carried out and companies would have to the end of the year to comply or risk serious penalties of up to Dh50,000.

Biodegradable plastic bags would need a Municipality-approved sticker with instructions on how to transport and store them.

Kayed spoke at a meeting of around 70 plastic bag manufacturers and importers in Ajman.

He told the audience at the Ajman University of Science and Technology that many areas would need to be smoothed out in the coming months but the decree must be complied to from day one.

Under the Local Order 3 of 2010 which was announced earlier this year in January, Ajman has prohibited the production of any plastic bags including food wrap and garbage bags, that are not degradable.

Plastic waste destroys the natural environment, and kills animals.

Plastic bags can block drains and cause flooding, or get wrapped around plants and trees.

It can be eaten by accident by birds or animals, or marine creatures.

It can also take hundreds of years to disintegrate.

Under the Federal decree, a pellet-sized ingredient, or additive, will have to be added into the plastic bag mix at the production stage to help the bags gradually degrade over a period of months or years without leaving residue or harmful fragments.

Two companies, Wells Plastic and Eco-polymers have been approved as suppliers of the granular additive.

The Ministry of Environment and Water is working to educate the public and manufacturers to accept the change to federal law.

Some hypermarkets across the country, and smaller stores, are already supplying shoppers with biodegradable bags.