Shoppers with reusable bags in Abu Dhabi. Image Credit: Anas Thacharpadikkal/Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: Abu Dhabi has prevented the use of 87 million single-use plastic bags since the implementation of a ban on the plastic bags in June, the Environment Agency Abu Dhabi (EAD) said on Monday (November 28).

This translates to a 90 per cent reduction in the use of the bags, or the daily reduction in use of half a million single-use plastic bags.

In a statement, the EAD said the achievements have been possible through the commitment of 80 per cent of retail outlets to levy charges on the use of plastic bags, and support that provides shopping bags made of alternative materials.

Sngle-use plastic policy

The ban on single-use plastic bags is part of the emirate’s Single-Use Plastic Policy, which aims to put a stop to the use of single-use plastics. Other than shopping bags, the policy also looks at a range of other single-use or disposable plastic points, including cutlery and water bottles.

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Paper bags have become a viable alternative to plastic bags in Abu Dhabi. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Since the implementation of the single-use plastic bag ban on June 1, a team of inspectors from EAD, the Department of Economic Development, and the Abu Dhabi Agriculture and Food Safety Authority have begun to carry out joint inspections of sales outlets in Abu Dhabi. The tours are designed to monitor compliance with the ban, and educate outlets about the importance of replacing single-use bags with reusable ones that conform with the technical standards approved by the Abu Dhabi Quality and Conformity Council.

“The Single-Use Plastic Policy in Abu Dhabi addresses the issue of plastic pollutants that leak into the environment and cause damage. We are exploring the use of sustainable solutions to solve this challenge in a manner that fully supports the Government’s long-term vision for a greener future,” said Dr Shaikha Salem Al Dhaheri, EAD secretary general.

Reducing waste

“By reducing the consumption of single-use plastics, the policy will also reduce emissions in line with the UAE’s Nationally Determined Contributions under the Paris Agreement. The achievement of the policy’s objectives will also help the waste sector divert 80 per cent of municipal solid waste in Abu Dhabi away from landfills,” she added.

Dr Al Dhaheri explained that the shift towards environmentally friendly consumption patterns confirms the commitment across society to supporting Abu Dhabi government’s efforts in preserving the environment.

Social commitment

“The society in the UAE and the Emirate of Abu Dhabi is diverse with multiple cultures, united by confidence in our wise leadership and the desire for excellence and to keep pace with global progress in developing the best solutions to the challenges it faces. The development of the policy and any relevant measures and initiatives took into consideration various environmental, economic and social aspects. The community, and its response to the new measures, helped achieve these results that have exceeded expectations. We aim to move forward in cooperation with retailers and the private sector, and with the support of other government agencies, to reduce the consumption of these materials and limit their damaging leakage into the environment,” she said.

Driving awareness

The EAD continuously implements awareness sessions targeting government institutions and private sector companies and provides them with tools that enable them to develop plans to implement the policy. It has circulated a guide to all government agencies - Becoming Free of Single-Use Products: A Guide for Abu Dhabi Government, and records show the guide has reached more than 3,000 government employees during introductory sessions.

In addition, a total of 15 awareness sessions were organised by the EAD engaged 3,550 people across different categories of youth, and public and private sector institutions. Awareness materials were also developed and shared about Abu Dhabi’s Mission to Zero campaign with schools and EAD partners, including retailers, online stores and delivery platforms.

The EAD also added seven incentive-driven actions to its BAADR application, which aims to encourage environment-friendly behaviours among Dhabi residents.

Plastic bottle reduction

Another major effort has seen Abu Dhabi recover used plastic bottles for recycling. This year alone, more than 30 million plastic bottles have been recovered, compared to just 7.25 million bottles in 2021.

The EAD’s aim is to collect about 8,000 tons of plastic bottles for recycling over the net five years.