Dubai: The newly-introduced 25 fils tariff on single-use carry bags will come into force in Dubai from Friday, July 1.
Abu Dhabi had banned single-use plastic bags from June 1. The ban is part of the emirate’s policy to gradually decrease the use of 16 other single-use plastic items such as cutlery and lids, and also ban Styrofoam products by 2024.
The charge in Dubai is mandatory for all shops that provide single-use bags to carry goods, such as retail stores, restaurants, pharmacies, e-commerce services and delivery services until a complete ban comes into effect in two years.
It is applied on all single-use bags used to carry goods at the point of purchase with each bag measuring less than 57 micrometres in thickness. The fee covers bags made of plastic, paper, biodegradable plastic and plant-based biodegradable material. The items that will be banned completely will be announced only at a later stage.
The stores, however, are not obliged to provide free alternatives. The new tariff is not applicable to packing bags. That means bread bags, knot bags, roll bags for vegetables, meat, fish and chicken, bags for medicines in pharmacies, laundry bags, bags for electronic gadgets, grain bags and garbage bags of different sizes and types are exempted from the tariff. Any carry bag that is more than 57 micrometres thick will also be exempted.
Though Dubai Municipality has given a period of four months to retailers for applying the charges by making the necessary changes in their work mechanism, many retailers are expected to implement the new charge from day one itself. The municipality has instructed shops to use posters about the new tariff at the customers’ checkout points. Businesses have also been told to create their own communication material to convey the same information.
Imposing charges is the first step towards changing consumer behaviour and thereby reducing the amount of waste and environmental damage caused by single-use bags.
According to a report presented at the World Government Summit 2019, the UAE uses 11 billion plastic bags each year, which is three times the global average if usage is calculated per person.
Retail chains ready
In line with the government guidelines, Carrefour, owned and operated by Majid Al Futtaim in the UAE, said it will begin enforcing the required 25 fils tariff on plastic bags in Dubai from July 1.
Bernardo Perloiro, chief operating officer of GCC at Majid Al Futtaim Retail, said the brand encourages customers to bring their own bags from home to manage their spending and mitigate excessive plastic consumption. It also offers alternatives including reusable bags for 50 fils, woven bags for Dh2.50 and heavy-duty, juco (jute and cotton) options for Dh11.50.
“Carrefour commends the decision of the Dubai government to limit the use of single-use plastic bags and raise awareness about eco-friendly alternatives. We are working hard to encourage sustainable shopping behaviours and provide our customers with convenient options for an easy switch.”
He said the decision by the government will take the chain a step closer to achieving Majid Al Futtaim’s commitment to becoming Net Positive in carbon and water by 2040.
UAE’s consumer co-operative chain Union Coop said it announced limiting single-use plastic bags earlier this month as a way to contributing towards establishing a sustainable environment gradually.
“This will be a steady process through which we will change the behaviour of excessive plastic use and phase out single-use plastic bags,” said Dr Suhail Al Bastaki, director of Happiness and Marketing Department at Union Coop.
“In order to gradually change consumer habit when it comes to shopping bags, we will initially introduce Tote bags for Dh3.26, 12 paper of bags for Dh21 and multi-use plastic bags at 25 fils,” he said, adding that the chain will study consumer behaviour and take timely feedback to improvise the process at every stage.
New community initiative
Communities and residents have started doing their bit to change the habit of using plastic and other single-use bags.
The Sustainable City in Dubai has announced a new community initiative to eliminate plastic pollution and divert single-use plastic waste from landfills. The ‘Plastic for Fabric’ campaign encourages residents of the eco-conscious community to collect and convert their single-use plastic to make reusable shopping bags. The bags are made from 100 per cent recycled PET plastic, collected by children living in the community, and Sanad Village, the community’s rehabilitation centre for autism and other related disorders. Once collected, the plastic is sent for recycling and converted into fabric shopping bags. The bags are then distributed to collection points around the community and are circulated for all The Sustainable City deliveries from the Zoom Supermarket.
Salah Habib, CEO of Diamond Developers, said: “To date, we have already successfully eliminated all kinds of single-use plastic from restaurants in The Sustainable City and now, working closely with our partners, we are phasing out plastic bags.”
Having begun the campaign against single-use plastic bags in 2018, with residents making Boomerang Bags from donated fabric, the community’s new initiative is expected to offset approximately 497 grammes of carbon dioxide per reusable bag.
What residents can do?
Apart from switching to environment-friendly reusable bags that are available in the market, residents can also make cloth bags using their old outfits.
Renuka Krishnan, a Dubai resident behind the initiative ‘Give a Tee, Take a Bag’ that upcycles old T-shirts into eco-friendly cloth bags, said she had been using cloth bags for shopping for more than a decade now.
She had also been encouraging residents to do the same by converting their old T-shirts into bags through her initiative. “I had to put a hold on it when the COVID-19 pandemic struck. I hope I can restart the initiative, now that the new policy on single-use bags has come in. I would urge more people to upcycle their T-shirts to make reusable cloth bags for shopping. All it takes is some free time and a sewing machine. You can make at least five bags in 15-20 minutes.”
Shops have four months’ time to implement it completely.
A total ban will come into effect in 2024.