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UAE is taking steps towards a greener planet

We look at environmental efforts being taken by the UAE community

  • Image Credit: Supplied
  • Image Credit: Supplied
  • Image Credit: Supplied
  • Image Credit: Supplied
  • Image Credit: Supplied
Gulf News

Dubai: Every year, over 80 billion pieces of clothing are produced around the world. Many of us wear some items of clothing just once. On the other hand, 7.1 billion smartphones have been produced in just the past decade and the average use time per device is only two years. What do we do with our old clothes and devices? Most of us throw them out. This is where Greenpeace, a non-profit organisation headquartered in Netherlands, steps in.

They have launched an initiative called ‘New to Me’, which is powered by the community for the community. People pinpoint locations on a map where others can find vintage or second-hand stores, upcycling designers, recycling centres for e-waste, flea markets and repair shops. The purpose is to avoid waste.

In the bid to be up-to-date with the latest fashion or technological trends, consumers are spending trillions. The World Bank states that roughly 4.5 billion low-income people in developing countries collectively spend more than $5 trillion (Dh18.37 trillion) in a year. That is around Dh4,100 per person spent on latest trends.

But while companies making our favourite clothes and gadgets are focused on retail, they fail to deal with the growing impact of the products on the planet.

On its official website, Greenpeace states: “We can break this chain with the everyday choices we make. Every time we make an effort to give a longer life to the clothes and gadgets we have bought instead of dumping and re-buying, it saves precious natural resources. If we share by buying second hand, reuse and repair our clothes and devices, we can not only save money, but take a small step towards saving our planet.”

Since 2011, Greenpeace has been pressuring the textile industry to stop using hazardous chemicals. So far, they have convinced 79 international brands to make detox commitments and got IT giants like Apple and Google to phase out some toxic chemicals from electronic gadgets, as well as using renewable energy to produce them and design them to be easily repaired and recycled.

But the responsibility is now on the community to utilise the services. In the UAE, there are several locations where flea markets are set up, as part of which people buy and sell second-hand clothes instead of throwing them away. Additionally, upcycling is becoming a growing trend in the country, with many stores selling vintage and pre-loved clothing.

Mohammad Al Hamwi, the director at the Dubai Flea Market, told Gulf News: “At the flea market, there are some regular customers who either buy or sell used clothes, shoes, home equipment, electronics, toys or books. Anything in your house can be sold here. The customers decide the price.”

So, instead of wasting and throwing away the items that people don’t need anymore, this is a platform for them to pass it on to someone else, at a very nominal fee. In the summer, the market is organised twice a month, but during the winters, people get a chance to buy or sell used items six times in a month. The next event is on July 7.

As your baby is growing up, you end up buying several items of clothing for him or her. But they grow out of their clothes quickly. According to US-based nonprofit organisation Mayo Clinic, from birth to six months, a baby may grow up to an inch every month and gain up to 200 grams every a week. So, your baby’s weight can double within five months of birth.

Baby Bazaar, a monthly market set up in Dubai for pre-loved baby clothes, aims to tackle this waste. Natalie M., chief organiser of Baby Bazaar, is quoted as saying on the market’s official website that she came up with the concept after she watched her son grow “out of his clothes on a daily basis in his first 12 months of life”. He was growing out of his onesies within four to six weeks and would lose interest in his toys after just a few weeks.

So, Baby Bazaar allows mums in the UAE to not only save some money by purchasing second-hand clothing for their children, but such action also makes a difference as it reduces the amount of waste that takes place on a daily basis.

 The luxury goods market is also booming, with the 100 largest luxury brands generating sales of $222 billion (Dh815.4 billion) in 2014, as stated in a report released by Deloitte, a global accounting firm.

In the UAE, residents can save on these, too. Many stores, and even websites, have been set up around the country that allow residents to buy second-hand luxury items, taking the upcycling concept up a notch. 

One such store is the Dubai-based Garderobe. Located in Jumeirah, the store has stocks of pre-owned branded fashion items like handbags, clothing and accessories at a fraction of the original price.

Hadiza Aboubacar, marketing manager of Garderobe, told Gulf News: “We have an in-house team and a partner that authenticates all the items we received, based on specific guidelines. If we have doubts about a certain item, we do not accept it.”

Those interested in selling items can contact the store through a submission form on their website. The store then contacts them with feedback on whether their item can be accepted or not.

Aboubacar said: “We arrange to collect the item for final inspection and provide a final quote to the customers.”

The traditional form of recycling is also something the UAE community is taking up. Neola Castelino, a pupil based in Dubai, thinks that our actions can make a big difference. The Indian national has been recycling different items, such as plastic bottles and newspapers, for many years now. Her latest discovery was the reverse vending machine (RVM) concept set up by Bee’ah, Sharjah’s environmental management company.

People can deposit plastic bottles and aluminium cans for recycling into these RVMs placed around Sharjah and Dubai. The incentive is a chance to win holiday packages, tablets and coffee machines.

Castelino said: “When you insert a water bottle for recycling, you get a receipt with a unique bar code. You then use Bee’ah’s mobile application to scan and enter the codes. The more you scan, the more chances you have to win.”

On average, she manages to recycle 2,000 water bottles every month.

The programme, which was launched in January, had recorded 33,000 entrants in May, according to Bee’ah.

Firas Wahbeh, Bee’ah’s marketing and corporate social responsibility (CSR) director said: “Incentivising environmental responsibility and increasing recycling levels, this programme has spread environmental awareness in the community. The RVMs have been successful in integrating recycling into the routine of many residents, thus ensuring the creation of a more sustainable future for the UAE.”

Another major environmental issue that Bee’ah is targeting is that of e-waste. The UAE is the second-largest generator of e-waste in the GCC, adding roughly 150,000 metric tonnes of e-waste to landfills every year. Dangerous elements in the waste can cause various forms of cancer.

Bee’ah has a facility in Sharjah, which utilises innovative recycling technology.

Khaled Al Huraimel, Bee’ah’s group chief executive officer (CEO), said: “With the rise of technology and the accelerated use of technological devices, we have recognised a growing need for the safe disposal of these devices, at minimal harm to the environment. This led to the creation of Attero-Tadwir-E, which will allow us to meet this need, while reducing our overall carbon footprint.”

Rohan Kapoor, a student based in Sharjah, has participated in this initiative. He organised an e-waste recycling competition, wherein 22,000 kilograms worth of electronics were handed over to Bee’ah by Sharjah residents.

Kapoor said: “We managed to divert a huge amount of carbon emissions. We were able to raise awareness amongst many youngsters about the harmful effects of dumping electronics.”

The Indian national also organises major recycling events, through which he has managed to collect 7,000kg of paper, 800kg of plastic and 200kg of empty cans.

You may have heard that small actions make a big difference. In the case of the UAE, this stands true as government organisations, companies and the residents come together to help make our environment a little bit greener.

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