How a Dubai hotel saved more than a million plastic bottles from going to landfill

Climate Future Week hears about the success of the Dubai Can initiative

The Dubai Can initiative was launched in 2022 and has played a key role in efforts to install water fountains across the city to cut down on plastic waste. Photo: Dubai Media Office
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An 800-room Dubai hotel was able to prevent up to 1.4 million plastic bottles from going to landfill in one year after it started to supply filtered drinking water on-site rather than bottled water.

Issam Kazim, chief executive of Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing, said the resort had been churning through 117,000 500ml plastic bottles a month before the sustainability move.

At Climate Future Week in Dubai on Tuesday, Mr Kazim said it even installed a bottling plant to help distribute refillable glass bottles of water to each room.

While the hotel was not named or more details revealed, statistics provided at the event showed the hotel could be able to prevent as much as 116 tonnes of CO2 a year from entering the atmosphere because of the switch to filtered water.

The switch was part of the Dubai Can initiative, a major Dubai campaign launched in 2022 that saw water fountains installed across the city to cut down on single-use plastic waste, encourage the use of refillable water bottles and enhance the emirate’s sustainability.

“By reducing the consumption of single use plastic bottles, Dubai Can aims to significantly decrease plastic waste in the city leading to a substantial reduction in carbon emissions and environmental pollution,” Mr Kazim told attendees.

“Dubai Can has achieved substantial cost savings for businesses through the installation of water filters.”

It came during the opening day of Climate Future Week. The five-day event encompasses talks, workshops, films and art exhibitions to examine climate change. UAE ministers, experts and those with solutions to the crisis are expected to address the event over the next several days.

“I don’t need to reiterate the importance [of the issue] and the risk we are all facing,” said Khalfan Belhoul, chief executive at Dubai Future Foundation. “This is a serious topic and we all understand that.”

Laila Mostafa Abdullatif, director general at Emirates Nature – WWF, told attendees she believed one of the reasons why the climate crisis had gone unrestrained for so long is that people failed to see the impact of human activity on the planet in real time.

She said this was brought home to her on a recent expedition to Greenland’s ice sheets. Over the past 30 years, scientists say Greenland's contribution to global sea levels has grown significantly as ice is lost due to global warming.

“The most shocking thing I experienced in Greenland wasn’t necessarily the data or charts. It was the sound of massive pieces of ice that were crashing into the sea time and time again,” said Ms Abdullatif.

“This highlights the raw power, sheer scale and urgency of climate change. When you are in a situation like that, you really start to think about the impact your daily actions have around the globe.”

Among the other speakers on Monday were Najib Saab, Secretary General of the Arab Forum for Environment, who spoke about regional challenges from water scarcity to carbon footprint; Toby Gregory, who rowed across the Atlantic and raised awareness of marine pollution; and Alzainah Albabtain, an organic gardener from Kuwait.

“People were questioning: ‘What’s next?’” said Mr Gregory, after his epic trip across the ocean ended in 2023. “We knew we had to do something.”

For the UN climate talks to take place in the UAE later this year, he has launched a fresh drive called Row to Cop28, where everyone from business leaders to students can join in rowing the boat around the country's coast in advance of the summit to raise awareness of climate change.

Mr Gregory is also behind the “the plastic pledge” which tries to galvanise people and companies in cutting plastic use.

“Everywhere I go now you see plastic pollution. It really is a scourge of society,” said Mr Gregory.

“It is not the only problem the world faces but we can't tackle everything all the time.”

Meanwhile, Omar Al Olama, Minister of State for AI, Digital Economy and Remote Work Applications, and Thani Al Zeyoudi, Minister of State for Foreign Trade, are set to address the conference on Wednesday and it culminates on Saturday with an event to mark the two-month countdown to Cop28.

Dr Sultan Al Jaber, Cop28 President-designate, UAE Special Envoy for Climate Change and Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology, is scheduled to speak about the build-up to the crunch UN climate talks along with Razan Al Mubarak, UN Climate Change High-Level Champion for Cop28.

Cop28 takes place at Expo City Dubai from November 30 to December 12 where leaders will gather to tackle the escalating climate emergency.

“Cop28 is a Cop for action,” said Mr Belhoul. “Let’s hope the contribution of this series of events can contribute to the action of Cop28.”

Climate Future Week runs until Saturday and is organised by the Museum of the Future in collaboration with the Fiker Institute. It also includes a regional climate photography exhibition and film festival.

Dubai Can – in pictures

Updated: September 27, 2023, 3:18 AM