Single-use plastic bags could be banned in Abu Dhabi by the end of the year, according to a senior figure from the emirate’s environment agency.
The move had been expected to come into effect in 2020 but was put on hold by Covid-19.
Monir Bou Ghanem, senior adviser to the Environment Agency Abu Dhabi, said there were 15 to 16 items that would be targeted by the new scheme. These include plastic straws and disposable plates and cutlery, all commonly used in takeaway meals.
He said an incentive-based bottle return scheme would also be introduced in the capital when the new rules come into effect, which he expected to happen before the end of 2022.
“We are at the final stages of developing the regulations and are in close contact with the private sector,” he said, speaking on radio station Dubai Eye.
“Single-use plastic bags are going to be completely banned and replaced by multiple-use bags.”
How and where to recycle in the Emirates
Globally, almost 300 million tonnes of plastic pollution are produced each year, the equivalent weight of the human race, according to figures released by the UN Environment Programme.
Only nine per cent of all plastic ever produced has been recycled, with the rest ending up in landfills, dumps or the natural environment.
The UN estimated if current trends continue, the ocean could contain more plastic than fish by the year 2050.
Mr Bou Ghanem said while the threat posed by the pandemic had not receded, fears that multi-use bags could increase the risk of infection had been disproved.
“Scientific evidence shows there is no link between the use of single-use plastic and (improved) safety from Covid-19,” he said.
People also needed to make sure they safely disposed of the face masks they are using to keep themselves safe in the pandemic, he added.
“The value of the mask is very important but the concern is many of them end up in the environment,” said Mr Bou Ghanem.
“You need to ensure these products end up in a proper bin or waste disposal facility wherever you are.”
Face masks also pose a threat to animals because they can choke on them or suffer problems if the masks are eaten. Masks can also damage plant life.
As well as the short and medium-term effects on spreading Covid, damaging infrastructure, and animals who eat the waste, there is a long-term problem that discarded masks can help transmit pollutants as well as micro plastics that enter the food chain.