Nine in 10 dead turtles had plastic in stomach, Dubai authorities say

Dubai and Abu Dhabi have plans to ban single-use plastic bags

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Related: Heartbreaking video shows baby camel chewing plastic in Abu Dhabi desert

The consumption of plastic causes nearly 90 per cent of turtle deaths in the UAE and half of camel fatalities, the government of Dubai has said.

The figures were released as the city prepares to introduce a nominal 25 fils charge on shopping bags.

This is the first step towards phasing out single-use plastics in the next two years. Plastic use is a nationwide and regionwide issue for governments and consumers to tackle.

Our team has observed camels eating plastic
Winston Cowie, Environment Agency Abu Dhabi

“Single-use plastic ― that is plastic we use once before throwing away — has been entering the environment where it causes harm and is a key threat to biodiversity — globally and locally," said Winston Cowie, section manager for marine policy, regulations and planning, in the Terrestrial and Marine Biodiversity Sector at Environment Agency Abu Dhabi (EAD).

"This includes single-use bottles, bags, coffee cups, straws, and cutlery, among others.”

A study into turtles rehabilitated by EAD, which had washed up on Abu Dhabi's beaches, found that about 80 per cent of the animals had ingested plastics, said Mr Cowie.

"Our team has observed camels eating plastic too," he added.

A video recorded by Mr Cowie last March showed a baby camel eating a blue plastic bag after mistaking it for food.

That followed footage taken by members of an off-road driving club, which showed the carcass of a camel found in the desert, its bones surrounded by plastic from its stomach.

A UAE study showed hundreds of camels had died since 2008 due to the consumption of plastic.

About 10 per cent of the 30,000 studied by Dubai’s Central Veterinary Research Laboratory died due to polybezoars, which are lumps of indigestible material made of plastic, the research showed.

Polybezoars can weigh up to 53kg and include plastic bags, rope and parts of plastic bottles, which accumulate over years when the animals eat the materials after mistaking them for food.

Dubai's 25-fil charge for plastic bags will apply from July 1 in shops, restaurants and pharmacies, as well as deliveries and e-commerce purchases.

It is a step towards a total ban, which will take effect within two years.

The move follows similar steps in Abu Dhabi, where plastic bags could be banned completely the end of the year.

The move had been expected to come into effect in 2020 but was put on hold by Covid-19.

“We are at the final stages of developing the regulations and are in close contact with the private sector,” said Monir Bou Ghanem, senior adviser to the Environment Agency Abu Dhabi, speaking on radio station Dubai Eye.

“Single-use plastic bags are going to be completely banned and replaced by multiple-use bags.”

Updated: February 13, 2022, 1:29 PM