A water refill station in Dubai Image Credit: WAM

Dubai: Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of The Executive Council of Dubai, in February launched the 'Dubai Can' initiative. The citywide sustainability movement has been designed to inspire people to make a difference through a series of sustainability-focused initiatives.

The initiative, which is implemented by Dubai’s Department of Economy and Tourism, encourages UAE residents to turn the tide on plastic and actively reduce the use of single-use plastic bottles.

Gulf News takes a look at how this call for action has been received by UAE residents.

Tahany Taher

Tahany Taher is an Emirati who serves as senior vice president at a bank and is also an entrepreneur of Hayawiia, a company that follows a reduce, reuse, upcycle and zero-waste policy. “In our company, we do not use any plastic whatsoever. At home I follow the same principle. Dubai Can has come as a blessing and as a reaffirmation of our ethos to be sustainable. As a family we think and live sustainable. We carry recycled water bottles everywhere we go," she said.

French expat Yasin Seker, 38, said he and his family never buy single-use plastic bottles. “We have a filter at home and we only refill our stainless steel bottles,” he added. Seker and his family carry their stainless steel bottles everywhere.

Yasin Seker

“It is very easy when you already have a zero-waste mindset. You are well-prepared when you leave home. Just as you pack your bags to go out, you fill your plastic-free bottle with water,” he said, adding: “Right now, few places have refilling stations for water. Students carry their plastic-free bottles to schools. If we have enough refilling stations across Dubai, more people will shed their plastic consumption.”

Seker said: “When you buy a plastic water bottle, you are paying more for the container than the water itself. When the plastic bottles are stored in the heat, the micro-plastics infuse with the water, which is bad for health.”

No plastic in this household for two years

British expat Jodie Whileman could not agree more. “As a family, we haven’t used plastic bottles in our home for almost two years now. We have an under-the-sink water filter that provides fresh filtered water straight from the tap," she said.

"All you need is to make a small investment for a water filter, which soon pays off as you don’t spend regularly for your water cans. Besides, it is healthy, unlike the plastic cans that you are never sure where they are stored.”

Jodie Whileman Image Credit: Supplied

She added that staying plastic-free outside the home is more challenging. “We need more refilling stations. It is easy to carry a refillable water bottle with you, but refilling it is always an issue. I am sure many people are put off from using refillable bottles due to this."

Whileman said her family carries one water bottle per member. “That is how much we can carry. If we don’t find a refill station then we are forced to carry a plastic water bottle. It breaks our heart to do so.”

Drinking only filtered water

Italian expat Alvaro Abella, managing director for a private company in Dubai, said he personally switched to filtered water 14 years ago. “As a family of six, including our nanny, we have enjoyed plastic-free water for 14 years. Even when my children started drinking formula milk, I used the same water to mix the milk powder and feed them without hesitation," he added. 

Alvaro Abella

He said it is all about being ready in the mind to go sustainable. “The day your mind is set, there is no looking back. It’s simple. Just carry your reusable water container with you everywhere. When we travel, we carry recyclable bottles with us.”

Abella said restaurants and cafes can also play an important role by offering free filtered water to their customers. 

Challenging without the right tools

Indian-origin British expat Radhika Arapally said: “Without the right tools, this can be challenging, especially for a mother of two children. For example, it is more challenging when you are out for a birthday party or visiting places. The Refill app and the Dubai Can fountains across all central locations will be a great saviour for water refills and an excellent habit that I can teach my children aged 11 and four."

Radhika Arapally Image Credit: Supplied

She added: "Having more refilling stations will be of great help. When I go to a birthday party, it breaks my heart to see the number of mini water bottles at the end of the party. If we had more stations accessible across Dubai, it would become a natural habit for children to carry their bottles (just like a school day) and refill when thirsty.”

German expat Carolin Hussein said it is about being sensitive to the thought of sustainability that will make one remember to carry reusable bottles.

Carolin Hussein
Carolin Hussein Image Credit: Supplied

“For example, on days when my children go from school directly for their sports activities, we plan ahead to take extra water bottles from home. It is doable, but needs remembering. That is why we loved going to Expo 2020 Dubai, for example, as there were so many refill stations around. Beaches have started to install refill stations, which is amazing,” she added.

French expat Celine Lamperin said she is conscious about the water she drinks. “As a family, we rarely buy plastic bottles. It is a habit now. When at the restaurant, I always ask if the water is filtered. I refuse plastic water bottles and only drink from my bottle," she added. 

Celine 1-1649833259033
Celine Lamperin Image Credit: Supplied