The UAE has moved in more than one direction to meet the challenge of increasing single-use plastic bags that threaten the sustainability of the environment, after its use in the country exceeded more than 13 billion bags per year, through the implementation of an integrated system represented in raising public awareness among all segments of society of the importance of consumption. sustainable development of this type of products, and the application of circular economy systems in dealing with plastic waste through treatment and recycling, and the use of biodegradable types.
The environmental and health pollution crisis caused by single-use products in general and plastic bags in particular is considered one of the most environmental challenges facing the entire world, as the increased consumption of these products has led to the generation of a huge amount of waste, which negatively affects the environment, It is a growing crisis with major economic, health and social impacts, especially for island and coastal states that depend on the marine environment and its resources in various sectors.
And the UAE government has set a decision regulating the use of single-use products in the country, whereby a complete ban will be applied to all single-use plastic bags in the country by 2024, and other single-use bags by 2026, as part of its endeavor to establish a sustainable future in all sectors. One of the first countries to adopt sustainable solutions to reduce the growing consumption of single-use bags.
The UAE’s hosting of the twenty-eighth session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP28), next November, is an important occasion to review efforts and measures to combat climate change around the world.
The UAE’s experience in tackling plastic pollution is distinguished by working to address this challenge from all angles by adopting more sustainable consumption and production patterns and educating producers and consumers about alternatives and what they can do, whether in the production chain or during the purchase of commodities to reduce the amount of plastic that ends up at the bottom of the oceans, seas and mountains. and wildlife.
The UAE is well aware of the responsibility of governments and the private sector in preserving the sustainability of the environment, as well as the role of individuals in reaching a more sustainable future, which motivates the state to mobilize the support and participation of all segments of society in climate action.
Global estimates of the amount of global consumption of plastic bags varied between 500 billion bags and one trillion plastic bags annually, which is a huge amount that causes great environmental and health damage as a result of its slow decomposition and annual collection in nature, which impedes the natural renewal of many earthly resources, due to the burial of huge amounts of plastic. Plastic bags in the ground, through their effects on human health and other living organisms, and ending with the distortion of the cultural landscape.
And the United Nations warned that there are 13 million tons of plastic materials annually thrown into the world’s oceans, which affects coral reefs and threatens wildlife and marine life, as scientific research indicates that harmful plastic materials may continue to remain in the water for up to a thousand years before To completely decompose and be absorbed by the soil, and in the meantime, it causes a serious environmental imbalance, as a result of the toxic substances it leaves behind in the soil and as a result of its pollution of the seas and lakes, which leads to the death penalty for large numbers of animals, such as turtles that may remain trapped inside them or may become delusional. that it is food.
The international organization also warned of the danger of burning single-use bags, noting that it results in the escalation of toxic dioxin gas in the air, whose effect extends for several centuries. This gas is classified as one of the most deadly chemical poisons known to man, as it affects public health violently. Causing reproductive and developmental problems, damaging the immune system, disrupting hormones, and causing cancer.
The UAE realized the dangers of these bags early, as the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change launched in 2009 the “UAE Free of Plastic Bags” campaign, which lasted for three consecutive years, and aimed at raising awareness of the dangers of these bags and urging them to reduce their use locally at an accelerated rate.
The Ministry works to regulate the circulation of biodegradable plastic products and bags, as printing on non-biodegradable plastic bags was prohibited by Cabinet Resolution No. 5/376 of 2009. A mandatory standard specification for the UAE No. 500/2009 was adopted regarding the characteristics of plastic bags and other plastic products. Biodegradable.
The Ministry issued Ministerial Decision No. 451 of 2011 regarding obligating plastic bag manufacturers and plastic bag suppliers to register biodegradable plastic bag products. Plastic bag products and other biodegradable waste according to UAE Standard 2009: 5009 .UAE. Likewise, Ministerial Resolution No. 118 of 2013 obligated manufacturers and suppliers of plastic products to register biodegradable plastic products.
And the UAE issued Ministerial Resolution No. 380 of 2022 regarding regulating the use of single-use products in the country’s markets, which constitutes one of the measures aimed at protecting the environment from pollution resulting from the consumption of such products.
The decision limits the consumption of plastic bags and regulates the production, circulation and use of single-use products. It prohibits the import, production or circulation of single-use plastic shopping bags as of January 1, 2024 at the federal level, including biodegradable plastic bags. It also prohibits the import, production or circulation of single-use plastic bags. Single use whatever material it is made of, also from January 1, 2024.
In the same context, as of January 1, 2026, it is prohibited to import, produce, or trade consumer plastic products, which include soft drink cups and covers, cutlery (spoons, forks, knives, and chopsticks), plates, pipettes, stirrers, food containers and boxes made of “foam” material. (styrofoam).-
The Emirate of Abu Dhabi dispenses more than half a million single-use bags daily, since the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi’s decision to ban single-use plastic bags from retail outlets, and to replace them with multiple options that can be used more than once, entered into force on June 1, 2022. In line with the vision of the UAE government, which will implement a complete ban of all single-use plastic bags in the country by 2024.
Abu Dhabi Environment data collected from sales outlets revealed that since the start of the ban, the number of plastic shopping bags has decreased by more than 90%, which has reduced daily use by half a million bags since the first of last June.
A commitment signed by the main sales outlets and more than 80% of the retail sector participated in this, to adopt a voluntary fee on reusable bags of 50 fils per bag, in support of the implementation of the ban in the emirate.
This comes within the framework of implementing the integrated policy for single-use plastics, which is the first of its kind in the region and launched by the authority in 2020, with the aim of gradually reducing single-use and consumer plastic products throughout Abu Dhabi, and encouraging the use of reusable products, as it works The authority is developing procedures to reduce demand and raise the efficiency of consumption of about 16 single-use plastic products, including cups and their lids, chopsticks and cutlery, to name a few.
In addition, the authority is moving towards phasing out single-use Styrofoam cups, plates and food containers by 2024.
And the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi has set an ambitious long-term goal to achieve zero waste from single-use plastics and zero carbon emissions, through its community campaign “Together Towards Zero”, which it launched in 2022 and aims to increase environmental awareness among all segments of society. Emphasizing the importance of reducing the use of single-use plastics and adopting environmentally friendly alternatives.
Reducing the environmental footprint
As part of Dubai’s endeavor to change society’s behavior in order to reduce the environmental footprint of individuals in a way that supports the UAE’s efforts to confront climate challenges, the policy of limiting single-use bags adopted by the Executive Council of the Emirate of Dubai entered into force on the first of July of last year, which includes the imposition of a tariff 25 fils on single-use bags for transporting goods only in all stores in Dubai as a first stage.
According to the statistics monitored in the emirate, the rate of reduction in the use of single-use bags amounted to 90% in commercial stores, and a reduction rate of more than 80% at the level of the Emirate of Dubai.
Since the launch of the policy, it has been noted that more than 75% of community members shop using reusable bags, which is evidence of the positive impact of the policy in changing the behavior of individuals in society and their awareness of the impacts that these bags may cause on the environmental elements in the emirate.
The emirate continues to organize awareness campaigns to change the behavior of individuals and to ensure the willingness and commitment of stores and the private sector to replace these bags with environmentally friendly ones that can be reused.. The emirate is also in the process of preparing an integrated policy to reduce the use of plastic materials, which include the most consumed materials that have a high carbon footprint.
In Sharjah, the Executive Council of the Emirate of Sharjah decided to ban the circulation, production, offering, or import of single-use plastic bags and materials in the emirate as of January 1, 2024, provided that they are replaced by multi-use bags and materials with specifications and technical standards approved by the Department of Municipal Affairs.
The decision aims to protect the environment from the dangers of plastic pollution, reduce the negative effects resulting from harmful practices, and promote and encourage a culture of environmental protection and sustainability.
Sales outlets have imposed a tariff of no less than 25 fils since October 1, 2022 on each single-use plastic bag that is presented to the final consumer, as a prelude to a complete ban on single-use plastic bags and materials in the emirate.
The Municipality and Planning Department in Ajman intends to ban the use of plastic bags in Ajman this year. The department conducted a study to find alternatives to single-use bags and the sustainability of the alternative. At the same time, it launched an awareness campaign for the community to introduce the dangers of plastic bags and urge community members to use alternative bags.
And the decision to ban the use of single-use plastic bags in Umm Al Quwain entered into force as of January 1, 2023. According to the decision, single-use plastic bags in the emirate were replaced with multi-use bags, with specifications and technical standards approved by the Umm Al Quwain Municipality Department, or midwife. Biodegradable or “woven” paper or cloth bags.
In 2012, the Fujairah Municipality banned the use and distribution of non-biodegradable plastic bags in all commercial establishments in the emirate, and replaced them with healthy and environmental alternatives such as biodegradable plastic bags or fabrics that can be reused several times.
In turn, the Environment Protection and Development Authority in Ras Al Khaimah approved the implementation of the “Ras Al Khaimah Plastic Free” initiative, which aims to reduce the use of plastic bags in the daily life of community members, and reduce the effects of their use on the environment and living organisms.