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Residents and students collected plastic bottle caps from the Abu Dhabi beach at a recent beach cleanup drive organised by the Indian Ladies Association in Abu Dhabi. Picture supplied by the ILA. Image Credit: Supplied

Abu Dhabi: Anti-plastic advocates in the UAE have welcomed Abu Dhabi’s ban of single-use plastic bags in the emirate by 2021, which was announced by the Environment Agency of Abu Dhabi (EAD) on Monday.

According to a report presented at the World Government Summit in February 2019, 11 billion plastic bags are used annually in the UAE, which is the equivalent of 1,184 plastic bags per person per year compared to a global average of 307 plastic bags per person per year.

The EAD’s new single-use plastic policy also targets plastic cups, lids, cutlery, straws, stirrers and food containers.

Earlier story

Plastic bottles will be targeted through the introduction of a plastic bottle return deposit scheme.

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Habiba Al Marashi, chairperson of Emirates Environmental Group Image Credit: Supplied

Reacting to the new policy, Habiba Al Marashi, chairperson of Emirates Environmental Group, told Gulf News on Tuesday, “The move to phase out disposable plastic bags starting with a stringent financial levy on its use and a comprehensive bottle return scheme is the right move forward towards reducing our excessive consumption of disposable plastics in the country. The bottle return scheme will also help increase the rates of plastic bottle diversion away from landfill and increase recycling efforts in the UAE. I hope this undertaking will be rolled out eventually to other emirates. I would like to see the private sector standing up and shouldering responsibility in the effort towards a sustainable UAE.”

Tatiana Antonelli Abella Image Credit: Gulf News Archives

Another anti-plastics ambassador, Tatiana Antonelli Abella, founder and managing director of Goumbook - a Dubai-based social enterprise dedicated to sustainability - highlighted the need to plant ghaf trees and abolish plastic use.

“Through ‘Give a Ghaf’, one of Goumbook’s core initiatives, we not only raise awareness about the hazards of single-use plastics on the desert environment and animals, we also want to educate people on how plastic ends up as litter in the stomachs of camels or gazelles which can be deadly. We also encourage corporates, schools and individuals to reconnect with nature and understand the wildlife environment of the UAE and in doing so, change their actions to protect it,” she said.

Abella said the plastic production process is highly cost-intensive in its need for oil and water. It also emits carbon dioxide and aggravates climate change.

Once discarded, plastic pollutes vital ecosystems killing animals and harming humans. “While it’s illusionary to detach ourselves completely from the use of plastics, we can start with the easily avoidable single-use plastics such as water bottles, food packaging, straws or take-out cutlery,” said Abella, adding that all have alternatives that are good for health, the wallet and the environment.

The Indian Ladies Association (ILA) also carries out campaigns to clean beaches and educate residents about environment.

Its president Sunita Wagle told Gulf News, “Plastic is a truly extraordinary substance with many useful applications but it does not make sense to produce it for single use.”

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Sunita Wagle, President Indian Ladies Association Image Credit: Supplied

“We have become so used to plastics and do not see the other options available. But if we try, we can get accustomed to living without plastics use them minimalistically to save the earth,” she said, adding, “We collected lots of bottle caps, which are very dangerous to marine species and environment, during a clean-up drive.”

The ILA welcomed the initiative of the Abu Dhabi Environemtn Agency to wipe out single use plastics.

Other steps against single-use plastic locally

  • In November last year, the EAD announced adopting a draft policy on single use plastics to reduce its consumption.
  • In June last year, Dubai Airports (DXB) announced that it will ban single-use plastics from its consumer spaces with effect from this year.
  •  Entities such as the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) and Dubai Municipality’s food court are also switching to tap water, so it is on the wider agenda.
  • Etihad Airways will reduce its single-use plastic usage by 80 per cent by the end of 2022 and will become the first airline in the world to operate a single-use plastic free flight on an ultra-long haul sector.
  • From January last year, Dubai Golf stopped using single use plastic bottles at its five golf courses. Instead they use reusable aluminum water bottles.