Abu Dhabi to ban Styrofoam cups and takeaway boxes from June 1

Move is part of wider drive to cut plastic pollution in the emirate

Single-use Styrofoam products are to be banned under the green initiative. Getty Images
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Abu Dhabi will ban some Styrofoam products from June 1 as part of a drive to tackle plastic pollution across the emirate.

Disposable cups, lids, plates and takeaway containers made using the material, which is a form of plastic called expanded polystyrene, will be prohibited under the green strategy.

The Environment Agency in Abu Dhabi said the move was to support efforts to cut the use of single-use consumer products. Abu Dhabi authorities banned single-use plastic bags in June 2022.

Abu Dhabi's plastic bag ban - in pictures

The policy was aimed to protect the environment and address high rates of plastic bag use across the UAE, which were about four times the global average at the time.

Figures shared by the World Government Summit in February 2019 showed 11 billion plastic bags were used in the Emirates each year.

Exempt items

Styrofoam items exempt from the ban include those that are not designed to be single use, including large storage boxes and coolers, and trays used for meat, fruit, ready-made dairy products and other food items sold in shops.

All products designed for medical use are also exempt from the ban.

Dr Shaikha Al Dhaheri, secretary general of the Environment Agency, said the decision would bolster efforts to reduce waste.

"This move will help reduce litter in the environment, as Styrofoam, in particular, breaks easily into microplastics that can enter the food chain and be harmful to human health, as well as affect biodiversity," she said.

“We are striving to make life easy for consumers while maintaining the balance of conserving the environment at the same time.

"Therefore, for the ban we have only selected items that are avoidable single-use plastics and have clear and sustainable alternatives.

"We will also provide support to government and private sector entities to facilitate the shift towards reusable solutions.”

Dr Al Dhaheri said the single-use plastic bag ban had taken 310 million bags out of circulation as of April this year.

"The number of bags distributed at retailers’ cash counters has reduced by up to 95 per cent," she said.

"In weight, this is more than 2,000 tonnes of single-use plastic bags. Similarly, more than 1,000 tonnes of bottles, equivalent to 67 million bottles, have been collected last year."

The ban is being enforced in partnership with the Abu Dhabi Department of Economic Development.

The authority has shared a circular on the Styrofoam ban with more than 50,000 businesses and 80 industrial plants.

Nationwide action

The Dubai government will introduce a law banning single-use plastics on June 1.

With single-use plastic bags already prohibited, the latest move will apply to all single-use bags that are 57 micrometres (0.057mm) thick or less. Paper, biodegradable and plant-made bags are also included.

It marks the latest step in the emirate's plan to go plastic free, after single-use plastic bags were banned across all emirates in 2023.

Sustainable vision

One UAE catering company said it had already taken step to phase out its Styrofoam use to help the environment.

Hitesh Sharma, managing director of Taste Studio, which is based in Dubai but has clients across the country, said the business had replaced Styrofoam with more sustainable and durable alternatives, even though they cost about 70 per cent more.

"In the last few years, we have made a 90 per cent shift to products like kraft or biodegradable boxes, with very minimal use of plastic," Mr Sharma said, adding it uses 5,000 eco-friendly containers each month.

"While these containers are slightly more expensive than Styrofoam, the environmental benefits and alignment with our sustainability goals far outweigh the additional expense."

One of the country's leading supermarket chiefs said it would take steps to phase out the use of styrofoam by the deadline.

Welcoming the Abu Dhabi government's decision, Bernardo Perloiro, UAE chief executive at Majid Al Futtaim, said supermarket chain Carrefour has "proactively limited its usage of Styrofoam in its stores".

Mr Perloiro said it will introduce "sustainable alternatives" by the June deadline.

The move "aligns with [Carrefour's] efforts and commitment to expand the availability of, and access to, sustainable products across our operations".

Updated: May 21, 2024, 7:37 PM