Starting in 2024, single-use plastic bags used as shopping bags will be banned throughout all the emirates in the UAE. The production, import, distribution, and circulation of single-use plastic bags will be prohibited by law as per the move.
The new law is part of the UAE’s mission to achieve carbon neutrality by the year 2050, and also to reduce the massive intensity of plastic waste that the country currently sees.
UAE Announced This On Tuesday
As per data published by the World Government Summit back in 2019, 11 billion plastic bags are used in the UAE every year which is about four times higher than the global average consumption.
The ban will exclude certain products such as thin plastic rolls used to cover food items and keep them fresh. Also, plastic products that are meant to be exported or re-exported from the UAE are exempted from the ban, however, the exporting purpose must be clearly mentioned on the product labels. Plastic bags, if made out of recycled materials within UAE, are also exempted from the current ban.
UAE has also announced a complete ban on foam and plastic products such as plates, stirrers, cups, boxes, cutlery, containers, forks, spoons, knives, straws, chopsticks, etc.
Local authorities concerned with waste reduction and plastic control are also encouraged to develop methodologies to limit the production and consumption of single-use plastic used to package products such as wet wipes, cigarettes, balloons, earbuds, etc.
The latest federal law urges both local authorities and residents of the UAE to work together to reduce the usage and dependency on single-use plastic items in the country.
Even though the latest federal law focuses on reducing plastic consumption and waste across all the emirates, similar actions were taken individually by several emirates priorly.
The UAE capital city of Abu Dhabi was the first to announce a ban on single-use plastic items from the 1st of June 2022. The move focussed on removing single-use plastic bags from public spots like supermarkets and encouraged residents to bring their own bags to carry the purchases.
Authorities in the emirate conducted inspections to ensure the enforcement of the ban on single-use plastic bags and were able to find that 80 percent of retail stores offered reusable plastic bags or alternative shopping bags made of environmentally friendly materials.
Popular supermarket chains including Lulu and Carrefour had already made alternatives such as paper bags and jute bags available, which can be bought from the cash counters and reused again.
Abu Dhabi alone was able to bring down the consumption of single-use plastic bags by over 90 percent, reducing the number of single-use plastic bags available in supermarkets and other retail stores by over 80 million since the beginning of the ban on June 1.
The Environment Agency Abu Dhabi has also launched several initiatives such as awareness programs, a guide named “Becoming Free of Single-Use Products: A Guide for Abu Dhabi Government” for government agencies, as well as an application named “Baadr” (which means “Initiate” in Arabic) to educate and reward residents for making environment-friendly living choices.
Currently, the emirates of Dubai, Sharjah, and Umm Al Quwain have a 25-fills charge per single-use plastic bag policy, which encourages shoppers to buy and reuse environment-friendly alternatives and also to cut down their overall consumption of single-use plastic bags.
The environmental hazard caused by plastic waste is not an issue that only UAE faces. In fact, about 300 million tonnes of pollution related to plastic waste are released each year, which equals the weight of all the humans in the entire world combined.
Out of all the wastes produced, only 9 percent gets recycled, rest ends up in oceans, landfills, and generally in the environment without proper degradation.
In fact, about 13 million tonnes of plastic waste enter our oceans every year, and by the latest estimates by the UN, if no changes are made to plastic consumption and waste due to plastics, by 2050, our oceans could have more plastic waste than there are fish.
Other countries have also taken drastic steps to reduce their local plastic consumption and waste due to it.
Bangladesh was the first country to launch a ban on lightweight single-use plastic bags back in 2002. Countries such as Austria, Thailand, The Maldives, Kenya, New Zealand, etc. all have legislation and bans against plastic in place.
The latest welcome move from the United Arab Emirates shows the keenness of the nation’s leadership to ensure that the country does everything it can to ensure a sustainable future not only within its communities but throughout the world.
The UAE’s experience and strong decisions in the fields of sustainability and clean energy is also a major factor that helped the nation win the bid to host the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of the Parties 28 (COP28).
The event said to be the most important event in the UAE in 2023 by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and the Ruler of Dubai, is slated to happen between 30 November 2023 and 12 December 2023.