Dubai: In a major boost to the Dubai Can initiative that aims to eliminate single-use plastic bottles, a luxury hotel resort on Tuesday opened a glass bottling plant that will remove 2.7 million plastic bottles from its operation every year.
Atlantis, The Palm officially opened its Dh1.2million customised on-site water purification and bottling plant that will facilitate phased elimination of all single-use plastic bottles by the end of 2023.
Timothy Kelly, executive vice president and managing director, Atlantis Dubai, who unveiled the project, also announced that the group’s upcoming project Atlantis The Royal, which is set to open in November, will have zero plastic bottles from its day one.
“In Atlantis for us as an ocean-themed resort, I feel that something that was very important for us was to eliminate our reliance on single-use plastics,” said Kelly.
“We feel that this is our contribution to Dubai, our contribution to the world … We want to be a leader in the industry, not only in Dubai, but in the world when it comes to sustainability and conservation.”
One of the largest hotels in the region, Atlantis is implementing the latest sustainability initiative under its Atlas Project. In phase one, all 1544 rooms and suites are being supplied with fresh drinking water in one-litre, reusable and refillable glass bottles from the water bottling plant.
“In the coming months, we’ll be deploying the same throughout our food and beverage outlets and it will also be expanded into our Aquaventure Waterpark,” said Kelly.
Free water for diners
Speaking to Gulf News, Kelly also revealed that guests will no longer be charged for water in some of the restaurants in the facility.
“ … because we’re producing the water ourselves, in some of our restaurants, we’re not going to charge for water anymore. For example, in Saffron and Kaleidoscope, which are our buffet restaurants, we are no longer going to charge our guests for water. And then what we’re going to do in some of our other restaurants is, we’re still going to offer our water but at a substantially reduced price comparatively. We don’t really want to profit from this. We want this to be a standard and norm and a provision to our guests that they can appreciate.”
How it boosts Dubai Can
Yousuf Lootah, executive director, Tourism Development and Investments at Dubai’s Department of Economy and Tourism (DET), pointed out that the Dubai Can initiative launched by Sheikh Hamdan Bin Mohammad bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of The Executive Council of Dubai, has seen a reduction in the usage of an equivalent of more than 3.5 million 500ml single-use plastic water bottles.
“We were able to triple our target savings from an estimated 1 million bottles per year in just six months after the launch in February. And that shows you how committed the stakeholders of Dubai are. The residents are making the change and that change enabled us to add about 750 stakeholders from the private and public to come together to create change and we are looking for more and more stakeholders to come on board and help move the needle.”
Lauding the initiative of Atlantis, he said: “The change coming from one of the most complex hotels to commit to go zero single-use plastic bottles is a testament to the will of the private sector to create change.”
He said the project has created a case study for the rest of the hotels in Dubai to emulate.
“Now, we have a narrative to say that if the most complex hotel in Dubai made it work, what’s your excuse, if you’re smaller and simpler.”
Tatiana Antonelli, founder and managing director at Goumbook, the sustainability partner of Dubai Can, said: “The fact that entities and organisations such as Atlantis decide to go plastic-free is very important to inspire the larger community to show that it’s possible, it’s safe, and actually it’s beneficial. You end up saving money because you don’t spend by purchasing water anymore. You end up saving a lot of waste. And at the end, you actually do something very important for your own health as a lot of studies have shown, in the recent years, scientific evidence that water in plastic bottles actually leaches microplastics and other chemicals that actually can hurt our health.”
“When we talk about these issues, many times we talk about how the environment suffers … how turtles, dolphins and whales end up dead on the shore [after consuming plastic]. But, not many people will actually take action because of that. They might feel sorry, but that is not going to help change their behaviour and their everyday life. But when you tell people what happens to their own health, to their children’s health and how easy and affordable it is to just install a [water purifying] system, that is what makes people change. And that’s where the impact is.”
How water safety is ensured
The drinking water used at the Atlantis plant is tap water from Dubai Electricity and Water Authority.
The glass bottles go through a stringent cleaning process first using a bespoke bottle washing machine. Every bottle of water will go through a four-step filtration process to guarantee quality. A ceramic base filtration unit is used first to remove unwanted elements such as metals from the tap water. In step two, a calcite re-mineralisation filter is used. Atlantis said it is the only hotel in the UAE that has implemented this filter that adds calcium and magnesium to the water.
A copper silver ionisation technology is then used to sterilise bacteria and viruses in the next step. It supersedes UV and chlorination sterilisation to prolong the shelf life of the water in bottles for up to two weeks.
In step four, activated carbon and ultrafiltration technology inhibits scale formation and build-up of contaminants such as lead, heavy metals, other volatile organic compounds and bacteria.
As a final disinfection step, ultraviolet disinfection is implemented at the filling nozzles and limits the risk of retro contamination.
Carbonation for sparkling water is also done at the same plant. Nozzles are customisable and can dispense ambient/ sparking water at the touch of a button.
Operated by 24 employees, the bottling plant produces 800 litres of water per hour. There are 12,000 glass bottles in circulation on site and up to 2500 bottles will be transported around the resort at any one time.