Abu Dhabi prevented the use of more than 120 million single-use plastic bags over the last eight months, and collected more than 50 million disposable water bottles for recycling in 2022.

These strides in curbing the use of single-use products will be ramped up over the course of the year, with authorities aiming to promote a culture that steers clear of all kinds of single-use items, Fayeza Al Seiari, senior specialist for outreach programmes at the Environment Agency Abu Dhabi, told Gulf News.

“The emirate effectively began this journey on June 1, 2022 when the ban on single-use plastic bags came into effect. We then introduced the ‘Mission to Zero’ campaign to encourage a shift away from all single-use plastics. We’ve already seen increasing commitment among residents, retailers and even smaller stores to phase out these disposable bags. Our aim is to double down on this commitment to also promote a movement away from all kinds of disposable items that have alternatives, including water bottles, cutlery, and food packaging, as laid out in the Single-Use Plastic Policy,” Al Seiari said.

Abu Dhabi policy

The UAE was reported to be using plastic bags at nearly four times the global average in 2019, in a finding discussed at the World Government Summit. The very next year, Abu Dhabi introduced its ‘Single-Use Plastic Policy’. The regulation began to be implemented last year with the ban on the single-use plastic bag distribution.

Aside from a few specialised uses – such as for fresh produce or medicines – single-use plastic bags have become hard to find in the emirate. Major retailers have also collaborated with the emirate’s environment sector regulator, the EAD, to charge 50 fils for every multiple-use bag, thus encouraging customers to bring their own bags when shopping.

Water bottles

Alongside this, the emirate’s environment sector regulator, the EAD, is now expending efforts to reduce the use of other plastic products designed for single use.

“Last year, a ‘Pile It Up’ challenge saw the participation of 250 schools, and about 50 million water bottles were collected for recycling. We will relaunch the challenge again this February,” Al Seiari said.

“Our aim is to recover for recycling 50 per cent of all bottles sold in the emirate,” she added.

Another part of this drive involves setting up recycling vending machines in areas of high footfall so that residents can collect points or awards by returning plastic containers.

UAE-wide policy

While each emirate has announced its own timeline for a ban on single-use plastic bags, a pan-UAE ban on the import, production and circulation will come into effect from January 1, 2024. Other single-use materials will be banned from 2026 onwards, including plastic or foam products like cups, plates, containers, boxes, and cutlery like spoons, forks, knives, chopsticks, straws and stirrers. (Gulf News)