Carrying reusable shopping bags when heading to the grocery shop has long been praised as a way to help the planet. And now more UAE stores are reinforcing this sustainable practice by levying fees on disposable plastic bags.
British supermarket chain Waitrose has introduced a charge of 25 fils per bag across its shops in the UAE as part of its sustainability programme, the company announced on October 7.
As part of its Partners Against Waste sustainability programme, all plastic bag proceeds will be donated to the non-profit conservation organisation Emirates Nature-WWF.
“This new charge is part of a gradual phase-out in line with the policies being introduced by the government across the UAE – and one that we are committed to following,” says Sunil Kumar, chief executive of Fine Fare Foods, which runs Waitrose in the UAE.
“We are dedicated to reducing our impact on the environment, and while we know there is still a lot of work to be done, the removal of single-use carrier bags is a major step in the right direction. So far, we’ve received really positive feedback from our customers.”
This is not the first time the supermarket, which has 12 branches across Dubai and Abu Dhabi, charged a fee for plastic bags. In 2018, it had a trial period during which plastic bags were priced at 25 fils for 12 weeks at five shops in Abu Dhabi.
The initiative was designed to encourage residents to think about the plastic waste they generate. According to the company, the use of the plastic bags fell by 74 per cent as a result during that time.
Waitrose is not the first shop to charge for disposable bags in the UAE on a permanent basis, though. Choithrams rolled out a 10 fils fee per plastic bag in selected stores in February this year.
According to Rajiv Warrier, chief executive of the GCC region, this has reduced plastic bag consumption by about 30 per cent.
"Sustainability has always been a key initiative for Choithrams. We are committed to adopting sustainable solutions to optimise water and energy use, reduce and recycle plastic waste to address the major challenges that have an impact on our environment and our society," he adds.
Meanwhile, a representative for Spinneys said the supermarket chain is "reviewing plastics across the supply chain at Spinneys as part of the 2025 sustainability strategy – plastic bags will be considered as part of this".
According to the UAE Ministry of Climate Change and Environment, about one billion plastic bags are used in the country every year – an average of 1,184 a person.