Abu Dhabi takes 172 million single-use plastic bags out of circulation in one year

Environment Agency Abu Dhabi says 450,000 fewer bags used each day since ban took effect

Abu Dhabi introduced its ban on single-use plastic bags on June 1 last year. Chris Whiteoak / The National
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Abu Dhabi has reduced the number of single-use plastic bags in circulation by 172 million since an emirate-wide ban came into effect a year ago, authorities said on Tuesday.

The Environment Agency Abu Dhabi said this amounted to 450,000 bags being taken out of use each day since June 1 last year, in a boost for the capital's green drive.

The eco-friendly strategy was introduced in an effort to protect the environment from plastic pollution, promote sustainable practices and address high rates of plastic bag use across the UAE.

Major retail outlets in the emirate now offer affordable alternatives or charge customers a minimum fee of 50 fils for each reusable plastic grocery bag.

This has led to a 90 to 95 per cent reduction in numbers of plastic bags.

Residents embrace eco plan

Dr Shaikha Al Dhaheri, secretary general of the agency, said the initiative had led to a 77 per cent reduction in the weight of plastic consumed.

“To put this into context, this is the equivalent to a reduction of more than 1,000 tonnes of plastic bags that were eliminated in just one year,” she said.

“The residents of Abu Dhabi shifted their mindset and adapted quickly to the ban, helping us fulfil our mission of saving the planet to create a sustainable future for all."

According to figures issued by the World Government Summit in February 2019, 11 billion plastic bags were used in the Emirates each year at the time.

Estimates suggest about 13 million tonnes of plastic enter the world’s oceans each year.

The agency said an outreach campaign called ‘Mission to Zero’ had played a major role in raising awareness.

It aimed to encourage Abu Dhabi residents to consider sustainable environmentally friendly reusable alternatives, as opposed to single-use items.

The UAE is making great strides in reducing single-use plastic with a nationwide ban that will come into effect from next year.

From January 1 next year, plastic bags of any material or composition will be banned in the UAE.

From January 1, 2026, it will be prohibited to import plastic cutlery, cups, styrofoam and boxes.

The ban will include everything from “food packaging, plastic bottles, cotton sticks, crackers bags and cigarette butts … wet wipes, balloons and balloon sticks” that contain plastic.

The move will protect the environment and be of benefit to consumers, state news agency Wam said.

Abu Dhabi single-use plastic ban - in pictures

Updated: June 06, 2023, 12:50 PM