The Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi (EAD) has announced a new policy to reduce single-use plastic materials in Abu Dhabi, mitigating its harmful effects. The comprehensive policy, said to be the first-of-its-kind in the region, aims to 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.
One of the key aspects of the policy is focused on making Abu Dhabi free of single-use plastic bags by 2021. The policy continues the legacy of the UAE’s founding father, the late Sheikh Zayed, who had a deep passion for preserving the environment and achieving sustainability, said EAD. Under the directive of HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Ruler's Representative in Al Dhafra Region and Chairman of EAD, the policy is part of the Abu Dhabi Government’s efforts to increase sustainability and improve the environment through the ‘Ghadan 21’ programme that is accelerating the development of the Abu Dhabi economy and investing in the community.
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. Six major outlets and many private sector entities producing plastic materials in Abu Dhabi were also involved, as per the statement.
The scope of the policy includes developing regulations to limit the use of targeted single-use plastics in Abu Dhabi gradually with a phased approach with incentives to target consumption of single-use plastic bags through fees and then banning them, introduce fees on single-use plastics with available sustainable alternatives and prevent free distribution of such items to the end user.
To realise Abu Dhabi’s vision for an environmentally, socially and economically sustainable waste management system, the policy identifies the 16 most common single-use plastics that cause the largest amount of marine waste (according to global studies) and will be targeted to varying degrees during the new policy implementation. These include plastic bags, beverage cups and lids, plastic cutlery, straws and stirrers that are going to be subject to fees. Plastic bottles will be targeted through the introduction of a plastic bottle return scheme supported with incentives.
Her Excellency Dr. Shaikha Salem Al Dhaheri, Secretary General, EAD, said, “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.
“By implementing this new policy, Abu Dhabi will be joining more than 127 countries around the world that have already taken measures to ban or limit the use of disposable plastic materials. Our policy is aligned with international standards in order to make Abu Dhabi a pioneer in reducing the use of avoidable single use plastic and non-plastic materials by 2021.
“An estimated 13 million tonnes of plastic enter the world’s oceans annually, altering vital habitats, endangering marine wildlife and impacting the food chain by releasing toxic chemical compounds. This issue is a grave concern for the preservation of our local species, posing a threat to our marine wildlife, sea turtles and seabirds, among others. Our policy responds to this global issue.”
Studies indicate that 36 percent 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.