International efforts to boost plastic recycling rates and pave the way for a more sustainable future are taking centre stage in Dubai this week.
Dozens of eco-friendly exhibitors came together on Tuesday for the opening of the inaugural Plastics Recycling Show Middle East and Africa, which is being held at Dubai World Trade Centre.
The three-day event aims to present recycling solutions to the global challenges posed by plastic waste.
A growing worldwide population is now producing twice as much plastic waste as it did only two decades ago, with only nine per cent of it recycled, according to a 2022 report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.
The OECD states that the majority of plastic waste ends up in landfill, is incinerated or leaks into the environment.
Plastic waste clogging up oceans also accounts for the bulk of marine pollution.
About 85 per cent of plastic packaging ends up in landfills around the world each year, the OECD said.
Unrecycled plastic breaks down into tiny particles that contaminate soil and waterways and cause harm to humans and animals.
Key exhibitors at the event include electricity company Schneider Electric, Bariq – the biggest recycler in the Middle East and North Africa region – and Saudi plastic producer Astra PolyMers.
A conference will be held alongside the convention, with speakers from top companies discussing topics including the state of collection and sorting of recycling in the region, chemical recycling, the challenge of regulation and the issue of plastics in the world's oceans.
Ditching the plastic
The UAE is taking strong action to address the pressing environmental issue.
In June, Abu Dhabi announced it reduced the number of single-use plastic bags in circulation by 172 million in the first year of an emirate-wide ban.
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 initiative was brought into force in an effort to protect the environment from plastic pollution, promote sustainable practices and address high rates of plastic bag use.
The UAE will impose a nationwide ban on single-use plastic from next year.
From January 1, 2024, plastic bags of any material or composition will be prohibited.
From January 1, 2026, it will be prohibited to import plastic cutlery, drinks cups, styrofoam and boxes.
The country has also pledged to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.
The environmental strategies are central to the country's wider green vision, as it prepares to host the key climate talks at Cop28 later this year.