The Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi (EAD) is making significant progress in its commitment to declare Abu Dhabi free of single-use plastic products, achieving the objectives of the Single-Use Plastic Policy in the Emirate.
The Agency reports a significant reduction in the consumption of single-use plastic bags, with people switching to alternative, more sustainable reusable bags with a lower environmental footprint. This positive change in consumer behaviour is being driven and supported by EAD’s ongoing education and awareness campaign.
Since the implementation of the single-use plastic bag ban in Abu Dhabi last June, a team of inspectors from EAD, the Department of Economic Development, and the Abu Dhabi Agriculture and Food Safety Authority have begun to carry out joint inspections of sales outlets in Abu Dhabi. The tours are designed to monitor compliance with the ban and educate outlets about the importance of replacing single-use bags with reusable ones that conform with the technical standards approved by the Abu Dhabi Quality and Conformity Council. These inspections showed a very high compliance rate with the ban and the use of approved alternatives.
Information collected from retail outlets indicate that since the beginning of the ban, the number of single-use plastic shopping bags has dropped by more than 90 per cent, resulting in a daily reduction of half a million bags since June 1st. This amounts to more than 87 million bags to date and counting.
More than 80 per cent of outlets are committed to levying voluntary fees, including the main retail outlets in Abu Dhabi, which have signed a voluntary declaration to support the ban, and to secure alternatives, resources and financing to support environmental protection, and reduce the quantity of plastic materials sold across Abu Dhabi outlets. In line with their commitment, the outlets charge a fee for each alternative reusable plastic shopping bag, with the aim of avoiding the use of bags whenever possible and reusing them when necessary.
Her Excellency Dr Shaikha Salem Al Dhaheri, Secretary General of EAD, said: “The Single-Use Plastic Policy in Abu Dhabi addresses the issue of plastic pollutants that leak into the environment and cause damage. We are exploring the use of sustainable solutions to solve this challenge in a manner that fully supports the Government’s long-term vision for a greener future.”
She added: “By reducing the consumption of single-use plastics, the policy will also reduce emissions in line with the UAE's Nationally Determined Contributions under the Paris Agreement. Furthermore, the achievement of the policy’s objectives will also help the waste sector divert 80 per cent of municipal solid waste in Abu Dhabi away from landfills.”
Her Excellency pointed out that the shift towards environmentally friendly consumption patterns confirms the commitment across society to supporting Abu Dhabi government's efforts in preserving the environment.
“The society in the UAE and the Emirate of Abu Dhabi is diverse with multiple cultures, united by confidence in our wise leadership and the desire for excellence and to keep pace with global progress in developing the best solutions to the challenges it faces,” her Excellency added.
Her Excellency Dr Al Dhaheri also reiterated that: “The development of the policy and any relevant measures and initiatives took into consideration various environmental, economic and social aspects. The community, and its response to the new measures, helped achieve these results that have exceeded expectations. We aim to move forward in cooperation with retailers and the private sector, and with the support of other government agencies, to reduce the consumption of these materials and limit their damaging leakage into the environment.”
In this context, EAD continuously implements awareness sessions targeting government institutions and private sector companies and provides them with tools that enable them to develop plans to implement the policy. The Agency succeeded in circulating a guide, which is available in both Arabic and English, entitled: ‘Becoming Free of Single-Use Products: A Guide for Abu Dhabi Government’ to all government agencies, reaching more than 3,000 government employees who were included in the introductory sessions. A key focus was on ways to implement the commitment contained in the Single-Use Plastic Policy: to declare Abu Dhabi Government free of plastic and non-plastic single-use materials.
Moreover, 15 awareness sessions were organised, targeting different categories of youth and public and private sector institutions, as well as in the industrial and commercial sectors, with the total number of participants reaching 3,550 people. In addition, 25 awareness materials were developed and shared about the Mission to Zero campaign with schools and EAD partners, from retailers, online stores and delivery platforms.
Additionally, seven actions were added in EAD’s BAADR application, which was recently launched by the Agency as a free, environmentally friendly smartphone app, designed to change the environmental behaviours of Abu Dhabi residents, both citizens and residents, and motivate them to lead in the process of positive transformation.
The Agency also focused its efforts on partnerships with more than 30 private and public entities, to develop a recovery system based on catalysts that contributes to collecting and recovering about 8,000 tons of plastic bottles over the next five years, which will go directly to the emirate’s recycling sector. This helps strengthen this vital sector in parallel with reducing the presence of these products in the environment. Reducing the consumption of these materials is a major objective of the policy and its tools, in order to reduce the environmental impacts caused by single-use plastic waste.
It is noteworthy that in 2022, more than 30 million plastic bottles were recovered, compared to 7.25 million bottles in 2021, and more than 10 tons are being collected weekly, i.e. approximately 850,000 bottles per week.