A supermarket in Abu Dhabi. According to the Ministry of Climate Change and Envrionment, 11 billion plastic bags are used in the UAE per year. Image Credit: Gulf News Archives

Dubai: Every day, by the hour, thousands of plastic bags carry our retail and supermarket purchases safely home in the UAE. Only a few consumers fully grasp the toll that the bags can wreak upon the environment. According to the Ministry of Climate Change and Envrionment, 11 billion plastic bags are used in the UAE per year.

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In the UAE, some supermarkets are adopting biodegradable plastic bags to give away to consumers. Gulf News spoke to four supermarkets about their eco-friendly endeavours.

Carrefour UAE

Carrefour UAE is actively looking at ways it can support waste reduction and reduce its environmental impact across its operations.

Currently, the company offers customers two options for shopping bags in which to take away their purchases.

Biodegradable bags are used as standard across its 88 stores in the UAE. These bags have been designed to be thinner than previous shopping bags, which means less raw materials and less resources are needed to manufacture them. The bags are ‘OXO biodegradable’ which means they degrade faster than other alternatives and do so naturally, ie they degrade through exposure to oxidation and without need for a biological process.

An Ekoplaza supermarket in the Netherlands. The products in its plastic-free section include meat, rice, sauces, milk, chocolate, yogurt and fresh fruit and vegetables. Ekoplaza said that by the end of the year, all 74 of its stores across the Netherlands will have a plastic-free aisle.

The company additionally sells re-usable eco-bags in different sizes at each cash till. These bags are sold at an affordable price of between Dh0.5 to Dh2.50. Carrefour was an early regional advocate of this concept and launched its popular eco-bags in 2007. The bags are sold with a lifetime guarantee and Carrefour will replace them free-of-charge at the customer’s request if needed.

All bags supplied by Carrefour meet the Emirates Authority for Standardisation and Metrology standards and are therefore legally compliant with UAE government directives.

Carrefour UAE is currently investing heavily in a number of areas designed to reduce its environment impact. For example, the company has set itself ambitious targets to reduce the energy that its operations consume and has installed cutting-edge Business Management Systems in its stores for that purpose.


Glen Thompson, marketing manager, said: “Since 2011 at Spinneys, all of our bags, including produce and meat, are oxo-biogradable, which take three to six months to fully decompose. We also offer customers a range of reusable alternatives including jute and trolley bags, both of which are popular with customers. All the profits of our reusable bags go to the Emirates Wildlife Society.

We are developing a new Community Social Responsibility programme of which reducing, and where possible, removing plastic from our business will form a major part. We are also launching a customer education programme detailing the impact of plastic on the environment, which we will roll out to all stores in the coming weeks.”


Subhash K, corporate marketing manager, said Choithrams uses bags which are oxo –biodegradable at all stores. We are exploring different ways to reduce the usage of plastic bags. Every year we run an awareness drive around World Environment Day to focus on alternatives to plastic bags, thereby educating customers to “reduce, reuse & recycle”. These activations help customers take small actions that collectively add up to making a bigger impact to environmental sustainability. We will soon introduce environment friendly cotton/jute bags and give customers an option to go green and play their part towards safeguarding the environment.

Union coop

Union Coop, the UAE’s largest consumer cooperative, confirmed that it uses eco-friendly plastic bags that are biodegradable in all its outlets and malls, which contribute to preserving the environment and promoting the UAE’s sustainability vision.

Suhail Al Bastaki, Director of the Happiness and Marketing Department at Union Coop, said: “Union coop deals with factories certificated from the Emirates Authority For Standardization and Metrology to make the plastic bags. The product is registered under the Emirates Conformity Assessment Scheme (ECAS) and complies to the requirements of UAE.S.GSO.5009:2009. This stems from our keenness to contribute in building a sustainable environment.”

Union coop has also sponsored above 25 cooperate social responsibility initiatives and awareness campaigns in 2017 for 11 government entities by printing important campaign messages on shopping bags to raise awareness among the public. The plastic bags featured campaigns such as Pedestrians Safety by Dubai Police, Car Free Day by Dubai Municipality, Basket of Giving by Dubai Health Authority and E-trader by Dubai Economic Department.

How Dubai Municipality recycles plastic

By Sajila Saseendran, Senior Reporter

It has partnered with private firms to build and operate plants at Al Ghusais landfill and dump yard in Al Bayada

Dubai Municipality has partnered with private firms to build and operate the plants on the premises of Al Ghusais landfill and the dump yard in Al Bayada, said Talib Abdul Karim Julfar, assistant director-general for Environment and Public Health Services.

“The one in Al Bayada has begun operations on a trial basis. The one in Al Ghusais will also be operational within a month,” he told Gulf News.

Abdul Majeed Abdul Aziz Al Saifaie, director of Waste Management Department, said the two new plants, along with the already existing facility of Tadweer in Al Warsan, will help divert 50 to 60 per cent of domestic waste from landfills.

“These are waste-sorting facilities that will aid recycling. They have contracts for selling recyclables inside and outside the country,” he explained.

At its plant, Tadweer recycles plastic into granules. The treatment and granulation of plastic is also a must for companies to export it to other countries.

Super ideas from supermarkets

A British supermarket group has launched a scheme in Malaysia based on bags with barcodes, giving customers discounts on their shopping every time they reuse the bags. The “unforgettable bag”effort aims to shift away from single-use plastic bags and reduce waste.

A supermarket in Amsterdam has an aisle with more than 700 grocery items - and no plastic. The store, Ekoplaza, said it is the first of its kind to have an entire aisle without plastic. Instead, food is displayed in glass, metal and cardboard containers, as well as compostable materials.

South Australia was the first Australian jurisdiction to introduce a plastic bag ban in 2009, followed by the Northern Territory and ACT in 2011 and Tasmania in 2013. Plastic bag bans in Queensland and Western Australia will take effect from July 1, 2018

Grocery shopping: Baby steps to becoming plastic-free

By Janice Ponce de Leon, Staff Reporter

How to adopt a plastic-free lifestyle 

1) When grocery shopping, make it a habit to bring your reusable bags, net bags for fresh produce, containers for cold cuts, and jars for ready-made salads.

2) Fruits and vegetables: Always choose the ones that are not packaged in plastic. Fresh produce do not need plastic packaging if they still have their skin on. Use a light-weight cloth bag to put your produce and then have it weighed. Put all the bar code stickers in a piece of paper or on the fruit itself. Firm and sturdy fruits like bananas and pomegranates don’t need a bag.

3) Cold cuts: Always bring your own container and ask the salespeople to weigh it first before putting your meat and then have it weighed again. Remember to tell the salespeople not to wrap it in cling film anymore and just properly close the lid. The same goes for your salads and other fresh foods.

4) Bread: Instead of wrapping your bread in plastic, you can bring reusable wax paper bags.

5) Cheese: Choose the ones that are not shredded and bring your own container.

6) Butter: Always choose the ones wrapped in paper or paper boxes. The same rule apply for pastas, soaps and others.

7) Bottled Water: Buy a glass or stainless steel water bottle and just refill with your filtered water from home. But if you must, opt for the glass bottles that have no plastic packaging.

8) Nappies and wipes: Opt for the eco-friendly ones that degrade. You will see it on the label.

9) Party items: Always choose paper plates over Styrofoam, bamboo cutlery or those made of cornstarch over plastic ones; paper straws are also increasingly becoming available in bigger shops.

10) When checking-out, put all your items in your reusable bags. And that’s it!