Dubai: An add-in ingredient to make plastic bags degrade was approved Tuesday by the Emirates Authority for Standardisation and Metrology.

By 2013 all plastic bags produced in the UAE will have to be made with this component marketed as being able to made plastic bags biodegrade without leaving residue or fragments behind.

Audio:  Feyaza Khan reports on moves to make plastic bags more eco friendly



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The Ministry of Environment and Water is behind the move to eventually totally phase out ‘regular’ plastic bags that can take hundreds of years to decay, and have endorsed the use of biodegradable plastic.

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 once they come into contact with oxygen in the atmosphere.

At least two billion plastic bags were made in the UAE in 2008, according to the Ministry Of Environment and Water (MOEW) with only 2,000 tonnes of biodegradable plastic produced.

A ministry survey released in 2009 revealed that of the 26 factories in the UAE manufacturing plastic bags, 14 produced 26,000 metric tonnes of plastic to be made into bags.

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

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

The Emirates Authority for Standardisation and Metrology (ESMA) has now approved Wells Plastics Ltd as the first company to earn an Emirates Quality Mark certification for Reverte Oxo-Biodegradable additives.

The company is certified as complying to the newly introduced UAE Standard: S 5009 Standard and Specification for Oxo-biodegradation of Plastic bags and other disposable Plastic Objects.

This certification has been jointly granted to Wells Plastics, a United Kingdom based company, and its UAE distributor Excel International FZC based in RAK.

Shakul Rai, Managing Director, Excel International FZC said the ESMA audit took place in June 2010 on the quality of the product, based on a third party test reports from independent ISO accredited laboratory.

Over the last 12 months, enough Reverte oxobiodegradable pellets have been sold to make "about 6 million medium sized biodegradable plastic bags in UAE and GCC countries, with major share being in the UAE," said Rai.

Some skepticism still surrounds the total benefits of biodegradable plastics with some claims that oxo-products are not completely consumed by micro-organisms and cannot be called biodegradable. The American Society for Testing and Materials has recognised oxo-biodegradation.

Eco-friendly: How it works

Plastic bags or film made with Reverte oxo-biodegradable pellets degrade in two ways after ending up in the garbage. Once exposed to sufficient sunlight and oxygen the bag will go brittle as the ingredients oxidise, and then biodegrade in the presence of microbes, ultimately converting to water, carbon dioxide and biomass.

- Wells Plastic