A pictorial from the campaign Image Credit: supplied

Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of The Executive Council of Dubai, on Tuesday launched ‘Dubai Can’, a citywide sustainability movement designed to inspire people to make a difference through a series of sustainability-focused initiatives.

This initiative, which will be implemented by Dubai’s Department of Economy and Tourism, will encourage UAE residents to turn the tide on plastic and inspire mass action to actively reduce the use of single-use plastic bottles.

Dubai Can seeks to motivate communities across the city to undertake simple changes such as using refillable water bottles and public water stations and installing water filters in their homes, offices and schools.

Helal Saeed Al Marri, Director General of Dubai’s Department of Economy and Tourism, said: “The Dubai Can initiative is one of the innovative ideas that we are implementing to create a vibrant new green economy that will offer the world a unique model for sustainable development. The initiative is aligned with the vision of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, and the directives of [Sheikh Hamdan] to transform the emirate into a leading sustainable destination and the best city in the world to live, work and visit. Our objective is to inspire current and future generations to play their part in protecting the environment and conserving our natural resources.”

The Government of Dubai Media Office organised a virtual media briefing on Tuesday to promote the initiative. The briefing was attended by Mona Ghanem Al Marri, Director-General of the Government of Dubai Media Office; Yousuf Lootah, Executive Director - Development and Investments of Dubai’s Department of Economy and Tourism; and Issam Kazim, CEO of Dubai Corporation for Tourism and Commerce Marketing.

UAE’s consumption

Yousuf Lootah highlighted the media’s instrumental role in the success of Dubai Government’s initiatives to promote positive change for a more sustainable future. Emphasising the importance of reducing plastic waste, he said a typical resident in the country uses 450 plastic water bottles on an average in a year, which translates into a total of 4 billion plastic bottles being used annually in the UAE. A single plastic bottle requires 400 years to decompose naturally, posing risks to environmental sustainability. Furthermore, plastic waste is responsible of the deaths of 1.1 million marine creatures globally, he noted.

According to Emirates Nature WWF1, the average person in the UAE consumes 94kg of plastic per year, of which a significant amount comprises single use bottles. Plastic waste has a devastating effect on marine mammals and sea birds and impacts local populations of dolphins, sea turtles and birdlife.

With the ambitious goal of significantly reducing single-use plastic bottles, Dubai Can will empower communities to take action, which will further bolster Dubai’s drive to become one of the world’s most sustainable cities, in line with the Dubai 2040 Urban Masterplan. The initiative also supports Dubai’s commitment to meeting the UAE’s UN Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDGs) and achieving UAE NetZero 2050 initiative.

Tariff on plastic bags

The initiative also complements the policy recently approved by The Executive Council of Dubai to limit single-use bags. As per the policy, a tariff of 25fils will be imposed on single-use bags used for carrying goods, starting from July 1. The policy will be evaluated over several stages until single-use carrier bags are completely banned within a span of two years.

With Dubai 2040 Urban Masterplan set to increase the length of public beaches by as much as 400 per cent and Dubai’s nature reserves and natural areas to be boosted to 60 per cent of the Emirate 2, the Dubai Can initiative will help lay the groundwork for positive change and support sustainable communities for generations to come.

Water stations

Residents and visitors to Dubai will have access to more than 30 water stations across the city as part of this initiative, with prime public locations including beaches, parks, malls and major attractions. The drinking water from the stations will be kept cool at a temperature of 10°C offering people a refreshing, clean and safe alternative, whilst also driving a ‘refill culture’.

All water stations across the city will provide the highest standards of hygiene and maintain strict adherence to municipal, healthcare and federal regulations. This includes providing clean and safe drinking water, which will be tested in accordance with Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA), GCC and World Health Organization (WHO) standards.

What is Dubai Can?

The initiative aims to reduce single-use plastic water bottle waste in the city by:

  • Encouraging individuals to use refillable water bottles
  • Enabling access to free and safe drinking water through the installation and use of water stations across Dubai
  • Creating a culture of conscious living by driving awareness on plastic alternatives and sustainability issues

Why act now?

The website DubaiCan says: "In the past 10 years, we've created more plastic waste than during the previous century combined." It urges the community to consider these facts:

  • It can take around half a millennium (500 years) for some plastics to decompose (WWF)
  • Approximately 100,000 marine mammals are killed by ocean plastic every year (WWF)
  • The average UAE resident can use around 450 plastic water bottles every year (Bee'ah)
  • By 2050 there will be more plastic than fish in the oceans
  • We need to act now to help our planet. Dubai Can is a timely initiative that will:
  • Bolster a citywide and global movement towards positive change
  • Protect the environment by reducing waste and saving wildlife
  • Reduce your cost of living and activate awareness

How can you help?

"Everyone can and should make a difference. Your actions are an important contribution," the website says. Here are some ways to help and be a part of the Dubai Can initiative:

  • Carry refillable water containers and persuade family and friends to do the same
  • Inform others about the free drinking water stations around the city and encourage their use
  • Install water filters in your home
  • Practice sustainable living and inspire the community with your actions and choices