Although plastic bags thicker than 57 microns are still available, supermarkets are encouraging customers to use alternative options. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: It’s International Plastic Bag Free Day today and if you are wondering how plastic bags are still available with retailers in Dubai even after a month of the complete ban on single-use plastic bags, here is the thing.

Yes, plastic bags are still around. But no, they are not of single-use variety. 

As the retailers explained, they are reusable plastic bags, thicker than 57 microns in compliance with the new regulations.

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The thickness of a plastic bag determines the strength of the bag against breakdown. The thinner the bag, the higher the probability of its breakdown into tiny, toxic particles that contaminate the soil and enter the food chain with animals ingesting them.

Gradual phase out

According to the retailers, bags that are thicker than 57 microns are strong enough to be reused. While they are providing these bags, against a nominal charge, they are also encouraging consumers to use alternative options, so they become a way of life and plastic bags of all kinds can be completely phased out.

V. Nandakumar, Director of Marketing & Communications at Lulu Group, told Gulf News: “Each of our stores in the UAE is only dispensing “reusable 57 microns” shopping bags, exactly as per the guidelines of authorities. Apart from this, it is also our continuous endeavour to educate and convert shoppers to use more sustainable shopping bag options such as recycled bags, jute bags and cloth bags. We have introduced many options at different price points starting from Dh1 to Dh10 and we are seeing tremendous response from our shoppers.”

Single-use plastic ban
On June 1, Dubai stopped shops from providing customers with single-use plastic bags by imposing a total ban on all on them as part of a policy to phase out various single-use products by 2026. Single-use plastic bags, which are generally thin, are often discarded after one use, following which they end up in the soil or the seas, posing a huge threat to the environment.

“We are also in the process of rolling out incentive schemes to further promote use of these eco-friendly bags,” he added.

Greener UAE

Carrefour of Majid Al Futtaim Retail said it also offers reusable bags thicker than 57 microns at affordable prices and encourages the use of reusable options, contributing to a greener UAE.

Supermarkets are incentivising customers to adopt alternative options to plastic when it comes to bags. Image Credit: Supplied

Samar Elmnhrawy, Senior Vice-President of Human Capital and Sustainability at Majid Al Futtaim Retail, said the retailer recognises its responsibility to take active steps towards reducing plastic consumption, especially single-use plastics. “With over 80,000 customers entering our stores daily, we see a significant opportunity to positively impact our planet and encourage sustainable lifestyles for future generations. This Plastic Free July, we are embarking on a bigger plastic-free journey to drive awareness and inspire positive change.”

To mark the start of a Plastic Free July, Carrefour is offering customers a 33 per cent discount on its durable, reusable juco bag, while customers who bring their own reusable bags or opt to purchase one in-store will be rewarded with five extra SHARE points. Complimentary fruit and vegetable reusable bags will be offered to customers who spend more than Dh40 in the section. Additionally, every Wednesday, starting July 3, it will be completely free of plastic bags across all stores.

Alternative options

Meanwhile, at Union Coop, Dr. Suhail Al Bastaki, Chief Community Relations Officer, said, “On the occasion of International Plastic Bag Free Day, Union Coop stands firmly behind Dubai’s decision to ban single-use plastic bags, a pivotal move in our commitment to environmental sustainability. We are proud to offer our customers multiple versions of ‘Reusable PP (Polypropylene) Woven’ bags as alternatives, promoting eco-friendly shopping habits. Moving forward, we remain dedicated to exploring further initiatives that empower our customers to embrace reusable solutions for a cleaner, greener future.”

Shopper trolleys

A spokesperson of Nesto Group said Nesto outlets are now providing reusable plastic bags that meet the municipality's guidelines of more than 57 microns in thickness.

“Customers can also purchase reusable bags at a nominal cost. We have paper bags that are suitable for lighter shopping needs. In our garment section, we have paper bags as cheap as 50 fils, which are fully recyclable. We promote the use of shopper trolleys, which are a cost-effective and long-lasting option for carrying a large number of items. These trolleys are available for purchase in our stores and encourage customers to use them for multiple shopping trips.

“Many customers are exploring alternative options like shopper trolleys, which can carry a significant amount of items and be used for a long time. We regularly educate our customers on the benefits of reducing plastic usage through in-store signage, social media campaigns, and staff training. Our staff are well-equipped to assist customers in making eco-friendly choices during their shopping experience.”

We also provide multipurpose durable and reusable foldable shopping bags, which can be conveniently held at hand or carried in handbags for just Dh5.99.”