Abu Dhabi’s admirable fight against plastic pollution – News

The new policy includes the development of legislation to limit the use of all plastics

Published: Wed 19 Jan 2022, 09:43 PM

Abu Dhabi has revealed big plans to phase out single-use plastic bags in the battle to reduce pollution on a large scale, as the city plans to declare itself completely free of single-use plastics by the end of this year .

The comprehensive policy, the first of its kind in the region, was announced in 2020 and aims to eliminate polluting plastics from the environment and eliminate the use of avoidable single-use plastics and non-plastics by promoting a culture in all the society. recycling and reuse, and encouraging more sustainable practices in the community.

This is an extremely important issue because the harmful effects of plastic pollution are spectacularly alarming. Most plastics take between 500 and 1,000 years to fully degrade, and surprisingly, 40% of plastic is only used once before being thrown away. Although reading can be uncomfortable, it is essential that we understand the repercussions of uncontrolled plastic waste.

According to the World Wildlife Fund for Nature, 8-13 million tons of plastic ends up in the world’s oceans each year, 50% of sea turtles on the planet have eaten plastic, and 90% of seabirds have plastic in their bodies. stomach.

In the middle of the Pacific Ocean there is a floating island of plastic waste, known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch – it is 1.6 million square kilometres, an area three times the size of France, and it is caused by the inefficient disposal of Plastic Waste. It kills marine life and enters the human food chain.

The scope of Abu Dhabi’s new policy includes developing legislation to limit the use of all plastics in the emirate with a phased approach, with incentives to target plastic bag consumption at single-use, to introduce fees on certain materials that have readily available alternatives to prevent the free distribution of single-use plastics and, finally, to incentivize a total ban on a range of products.

These include plastic bags, drink cups and lids, plastic cutlery, straws and stirrers, and food containers. Plastic bottles will be targeted initially by setting up a plastic bottle return deposit system which can even help develop a micro-economy for young people who could earn pocket money by collecting empty plastic bottles from their quarters and returning them for cash.

We use single-use plastics every day without really realizing it, from coffee cups to grocery bags and utensils, and sadly we also don’t notice that plastic waste is killing over 100 000 marine animals and one million seabirds each year, according to the Abu Dhabi Environment Agency.

But the news is not all bad. A number of other countries have successfully replaced single-use plastic bags with paper bags or reusable bags made from recycled materials. In 2016, France became the first country in the world to ban the manufacture and sale of single-use plastic take-out cups, cutlery, plates and food boxes. Initially, the law required that all disposable tableware be made from 50% bio-based materials that could be composted at home and this figure increases to 60% by 2025. Also in 2016, France banned stores from distributing plastic bags and only this month extended the ban on plastics to fruit and vegetable packaging, reflecting the country’s commitment to completely eliminate single-use plastics by 2040.

Norway is another country that has seen success in its fight against pollution, this time with its bottle deposit program. To date, an impressive 97% of the country’s plastic bottles have been returned for recycling since the program launched in 2014.

There are even unexpected countries that have banned single-use plastics, including India, Chile and Rwanda, which became the world’s first ‘plastic-free’ country in 2009 after introducing a ban on all plastic bags and packaging. Anyone caught with a plastic object can face a prison sentence of up to six months, which sounds harsh, but it has worked: you don’t see plastic bags floating through the windswept streets, hanging to trees, clog sewers or find their way. in the rivers, lakes and streams of Rwanda today.

This is important because plastic waste is more than just a local environmental disaster in the making. It is also important because of the estimated 8-13 million tonnes of plastic that enter our oceans each year, transforming vital marine habitats, endangering wildlife and impacting the food chain by releasing chemicals.

For the United Arab Emirates, this issue is of grave concern to authorities concerned with the preservation of our local species. Pollution also poses a threat to our own delicate marine wildlife; dugongs, sea turtles and seabirds among others. Our local policy is a timely response to a global problem.

Dr Shaikha Salem Al Dhaheri, Secretary General of the Environment Agency Abu Dhabi, said at the time of the policy announcement: “If we don’t take bold steps to contain the use of plastics By influencing behaviors and effectively managing waste, there will be more plastic than fish in the oceans and seas by 2050, creating lasting impacts, not just on ocean health, but ultimately on human health and global food security.

So how can we as individuals help and what bold steps should we take?

I always try to fit everything in one bag and will refuse others if what I have with me is big enough. All that extra packaging and “one item/one bag” attitude is totally unnecessary. If you buy a bottle of perfume in the mall, check that it fits in your purse before accepting that it is wrapped in a pretty paper, placed in a bag, and finished with a (plastic) ribbon ! Even better, a local store I use has started putting paper bags in their produce section and it’s a fantastic idea, but they’re small and not suitable for a whole family’s shopping.

Why not get yourself a ‘bag for life’ and leave it in the car for every shopping trip, even if it’s just for the local baqala, but remember, these bags are apparently only better for the environment than if used a minimum of 10 times, so use and reuse as much as possible.

Shopping bags come in all designs and sizes, and buyer beware: some fancy designs can cost upwards of Dh10,000 which for some is all the rage now, like the Dior bag that can be used for multiple purposes such as shopping, a beach bag. and a work bag. With this price, I would expect it to last more than a lifetime! Personally, I find burlap bags to be the best because not only are they affordable, they are guaranteed to be 100% biodegradable.

Abu Dhabi also plans to limit the use of plastic bottles and an incentive-based plastic bottle return program will be introduced. Once the bottles are collected, they can be recycled to make different products, including clothing, bags, auto parts, containers, furniture and new plastic bottles. This could spawn a variety of new businesses.

There is already an Emirati start-up doing just that; collect single-use plastic bottles, turn them into usable yarn and manufacture t-shirts, caps, bags and other items, manage the entire supply chain and now sell their products to the Expo 2020 Dubai. It’s a small start, but one worth supporting and hopefully the precursor to many more local businesses of its kind. But in the meantime, how can we, as a nation, boost our contribution to this valuable cause? As a major part of the global movement towards more sustainable and environmentally friendly products, we can and must help.

We don’t have to wait to act. It is our collective responsibility to make a difference, and we can start today. Here are some tips to be part of the solution by reducing your consumption of single-use plastic now:

  • Always have a reusable bag when shopping.

  • Replace your single-use water bottles with reusable ones, and make sure they’re BPA-free (a common chemical in plastic), stainless steel, or glass.

  • Say NO to plastic straws and utensils when ordering food and eating out.

  • Bring your own reusable tea/coffee cup to cafes for a refill.

If we change our habits, we can make a difference and protect our environment, and now is the time to start. We don’t need a straw or a coffee cup that we will only use once before throwing it away, because there is no “far”.

— rasha@khaleejtimes.com

Bryce K. Locke