As Dubai gears up to introducing a 25 fils ($0.07) charge for single-use bags, authorities have clarified that this is not limited to plastic bags.
From July 1, the mandatory tariff will be applied to all single-use bags — made of plastic, paper, biodegradable plastic and plant-based biodegradable materials — that are 57 micrometres thick, Dubai Municipality said on Friday.
A micrometre is one thousandth of a millimetre.
All stores must levy the charge for each single-use bag, and a different tariff can be applied to reusable alternatives, if provided by the store.
Stores are not obliged to provide free alternatives, as the goal is to push a change in consumer behaviour to protect the environment, the municipality said.
The charge is the first step towards a complete ban on single-use plastic bags in Dubai in two years. Retailers will get four months to roll out the charge.
The 25 fils fee will be added to the bill.
There will be no limit on the number of bags sold to customers at the checkout counters but staff will be trained to rationalise the use of carrier bags when packing and delivering purchases, officials said.
Dubai recommends that private sector retailers donate the money to support sustainable initiatives, either through the company or local environmental and community associations.
Disposable bags are a major source of litter and pollution in the environment.
“It should be noted that alternatives often have a larger environmental footprint than plastic bags but are easier to manage at the disposal stage and cause less environmental and health damage, provided they are used properly,” the municipality said in a release.
“For example, the production of paper bags is also harmful to the environment and leads to the cutting of a large number of trees and consumes great resources and energy, and therefore its use also requires paying the imposed fees.
“Single-use plastic bags have a lower environmental footprint than paper bags in the manufacturing stage, but their damages lie in the disposal stage.
“We need to use paper bags at least three to seven times to have a lower environmental impact than non-recyclable plastic bags.”
Retail giant Majid Al Futtaim Carrefour announced last year that it would stop providing single-use plastic bags at the checkout counters of two of its Dubai branches — Carrefour Hypermarket at Cityland Mall and Carrefour Market at Arabian Ranches 1.
A study last year found that hundreds of camels across the UAE have died as a result of eating plastic over the past decade.
Of 30,000 postmortems carried out on camels since 2008, in the field or in a laboratory by staff from Dubai’s Central Veterinary Research Laboratory, about 300 had died because of polybezoars — stone-like lumps of indigestible material including plastic, rope and other litter that block the digestive tract.
It means about one per cent of camel deaths in the UAE is due to the animal eating plastic waste left behind by people.
Worldwide, almost 300 million tonnes of plastic pollution is produced each year — equivalent to the weight of the entire human population, 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 polluting the environment.
The UN says that if current trends continue, the ocean could contain more plastic than fish by weight by 2050.