Abu Dhabi shows way in drive against plastics - GulfToday

Abu Dhabi shows way in drive against plastics

Plastic pollution

Abu Dhabi's decision to reduce the amount of single use plastic material in the capital is praiseworthy.

The danger posed by single-use plastic products to human and animal health should never be underestimated.

United Nations officials have been repeatedly urging everyone to give up the use of single-use plastic products such as disposable cutlery, water bottles, food containers and shopping bags. Unfortunately, the reactions have been muted.

Each year, an estimated eight million tonnes of plastic end up in the ocean – equivalent to a full garbage truck dumped into the sea every minute – as per the United Nations Environment Programme.

In this background, the decision by Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi to device a new policy to reduce the amount of single use plastic material in Abu Dhabi and mitigate its harmful effects is praiseworthy.

The comprehensive policy, which is the first-of-its-kind in the region, will help keep plastics out of the environment and eliminate the use of avoidable single-use plastic and non-plastic materials by 2021 through fostering a culture of recycling and re-use and encouraging more sustainable practices in the community.

It is enriching to note that through the new policy, the EAD will make Abu Dhabi completely free of single-use plastic bags by 2021.

The strategy continues the legacy of the UAE’s Founding Father, the late Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, who had a deep passion for preserving the environment and achieving sustainability.

Developed in line with international standards, the policy will be implemented over the next two years (2020-21) in co-ordination with government and private stakeholders and has been prepared with the support of Emirates Nature WWF and 12 other government entities, including the Department of Economic Development.

Where there’s a will there’s a way. The scope of the policy includes developing legislation to limit the use of all plastic materials in Abu Dhabi gradually with a phased approach with incentives to target consumption of single use plastic bags, then introducing fees on some materials which have available alternatives to prevent distribution of single-use plastic materials free of charge and, finally, achieving a total ban.

In the words of Dr Shaikha Salem Al Dhaheri, Secretary General, Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi: “The launch of the single-use plastics policy reflects our steadfast commitment towards transitioning to a more sustainable economy that seeks to minimise waste and protect vital ecosystems in our environment. Abu Dhabi will be joining more than 127 countries that have already taken measures to ban or limit the use of disposable plastic materials.”

The policy is aligned with international standards in order to make Abu Dhabi a pioneer in reducing the use of avoidable single use materials by 2021.

Studies have clearly revealed that 36 per cent of the global production of single use plastics are not recycled and globally more than 400 million tonnes of different types of plastics are produced every year.

As a result of high consumption rates and low recycling operations, by 2050 it is expected that for every three tonnes of fish in the ocean, there will be one tonne of plastic. In the UAE, 11 billion plastic bags are consumed annually (according to a report presented in The World Government Summit in February 2019), which is the equivalent of 1,184 plastic bags per person per year compared to a global average of 307 plastic bags per person per year.

While global action is essential to beat plastic pollution, Abu Dhabi deserves a pat for taking the right steps to free the city of single-use plastic bags by 2021.

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