Abu Dhabi reduces Single-use PLASTIC BAG numbers by 90%

16 January 2023

Enviro Chat

Since the introduction of a ban on single-use plastic bags in all Abu Dhabi shops, supermarkets and other retail outlets on June 1st, their use has been reduced by a massive 90%. The move was pioneered by the Environment Agency Abu Dhabi, which wished to tackle the country’s poor historical record on plastic consumption and disposal.

The impact has been impressive. In the six months since the ban came in, an estimated 87 million fewer bags have been used in stores around the emirate. That equates to approximately half a million less bags every single day, transforming the country’s plastic pollution profile in a remarkably short time.

In the bag

The UAE has long lagged behind the rest of the world when it comes to single-use plastics. While regulations on such materials have been in place in nations like the UK, the USA and the EU for several years, they were sadly lacking in the Emirates. As a result, the consumption of plastic bags stood at 11 billion per annum in 2019, which was four times higher than the global average.

However, the June 1st ban has changed all of that. With routine inspections by the Environment Agency revealing that over 80% of stores now charge for reusable plastic bags or provide their customers with eco-friendly alternatives, that sky-high consumption rate has fallen sharply. As well as reducing plastic pollution, the initiative is also expected to curb emissions and redirect up to 80% of other forms of municipal solid waste away from landfill.

Single-use plastics in the crosshairs

It’s not just plastic bags which the Abu Dhabi authorities are focusing on, either. By teaming up with more than 30 organisations from both the public and the private sector, the Agency has been able to collect 300% more plastic bottles in 2022 than in 2021. It aims to recycle 8,000 tonnes of plastic bottles in the coming five years.

“The single-use plastic policy in Abu Dhabi addresses the issue of plastic pollutants that leak into the environment and cause damage,” explained Dr Shaikha al Dhaheri, secretary general of the Environment Agency. “We are exploring the use of sustainable solutions to solve this challenge in a manner that fully supports the government’s long-term vision for a greener future.”

Education and awareness

Those figures are impressive enough – but the Agency is not resting on its laurels. It wishes to educate government departments, private businesses and the general public about the importance of reducing plastic waste. For that reason, it has distributed a guide to its single-use plastics policies to all government departments.

Additionally, it has held 15 different sessions and forums over the last six months, each of which was aimed at raising awareness and educating individuals from a broad cross-section of society and commerce. At the same time, it has also published the Baadr app, which means “initiate”, and provides information on and incentives towards living a more sustainable lifestyle.

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