Shoppers and retailers embrace Dubai's single-use bag charge

Move to introduce 25 fil charge is part of wider plan to support the environment

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Dubai shoppers and retailers have embraced a new green tariff on single-use bags aimed at cutting back on waste and protecting the environment.

A mandatory charge of 25 fils ($0.07) on the purchase of each bag was introduced on Friday.

Bags were previously handed out free of charge to customers in stores.

The fee applies to all bags made of plastic, paper, biodegradable plastic and plant-based biodegradable materials that are less than 57 micrometers thick. A micrometre is one thousandth of a millimetre.

This is the first step in a plan to ban such bags in the emirate in the next two years.

Shoppers back plan

Norbert Sammah, from Ghana buys a paper bag for his groceries at Spinneys Motor City, Dubai. Khushnum Bhandari / The National

“The less plastic the better. It’s good news because we have to take action to reduce the amount of plastic waste we are producing,” said South African Eric Smith, who was doing his morning shopping in the Geant hypermarket in Dubai Hills Mall on Friday.

“I’m often guilty of forgetting to bring bags from home with me to do my shopping, like a lot of people, and I just end up accepting the free plastic bag they are offering.

“Having to pay for the bags now will be a big incentive to bring our own reusable ones from home.”

Similar tariffs on single-use bags are in place in more than 30 nations around the world, with total or partial bans in more than 90 countries.

On June 1, Abu Dhabi became the first place in the Middle East to ban single-use plastic bags.

Almost 300 million tonnes of plastic pollution is created each year worldwide, according to the UN Environment Programme.

Less than nine per cent of that ever ends up being recycled. The rest usually finds its way to dumps, landfills and natural environments.

The UN also estimated oceans would contain more plastic than fish by the year 2050, unless current trends are reversed.

Also welcoming the new charge was Indian shopper Junaid Memon.

“It’s a good move because it will encourage people to reduce the amount of plastic bags they use,” said Mr Memon, who works in the financial sector.

“But we shouldn’t stop there and just replace it with paper alternatives, as they cause a lot of harm to our environment too.”

Alternatives on offer

Reusable bags on display at Spinneys in Motor City, Dubai. Khushnum Bhandari / The National

Supermarkets are offering a raft of alternatives to single-use plastic bags, from recycled options to standard paper bags.

Geant is giving a portion of the proceeds from the plastic bag charge to Emirates Nature-WWF.

“From offering paper bags to reusable containers in our ‘grab-and-go’ section, we are committed to make a positive social, environmental, and economic impact on the future of the food retail industry,” said Marc Laurent, retail president of Geant’s parent group GMG Consumer.

The yellow plastic bags from Spinneys have been a common sight across the UAE over the years, however they were nowhere to be seen on Friday morning.

The supermarket chain has scrapped the single-use plastic bags, offering shoppers a paper alternative instead at the checkout.

“I brought my own bags with me today, like I always do,” said Swedish home maker May Serag, who was shopping with her family at Spinneys in Motor City.

“It’s something I am used to, because it’s common in my home country.

“I always keep a reusable bag in the car as well, for convenience.”

One shopper welcomed the plastic bag charge and said she now would be making sure to bring her own bags to reuse.

Nardos Zeheye pays 75 fils for a paper bag at Spinneys Motor City, Dubai. Khushnum Bhandari / The National

“There’s no question we need to reduce the amount of plastic bags in circulation,” said Nardos Zeheye, a teacher from Ethiopia.

“The more plastic we use the more damage we do to the planet around us.

“However, I just paid 75 fils for a paper bag, which is a bit expensive! It’ll encourage people to bring their own though.”

A senior figure from Spinneys said the paper bags, costing 75 fils each, were a temporary measure that would eventually be done away with.

“We are going to phase them out at the end of the summer,” said Warwick Gird, general manager of marketing for Spinneys.

“Customers can buy reusable bags in store or bring their own from home.

“If they bring their own bags we’ll give them back 25 fils each time.”

Supermarket chain Carrefour was also offering customers a range of reusable bags in store instead of the single-use use plastic option.

The supermarket group's UAE stores, owned and operated by Majid Al Futtaim, are selling reusable bags from 50 fils, up to Dh11.50 for heavier duty options.

Community steps up

One community in Dubai is taking the challenge presented by single-use use plastic a step further.

The Sustainable City has announced a community-wide scheme to reduce the amount of single-use plastics ending up in landfills.

Residents and children in the community on Dubai’s Al Qudra Road are encouraged to collect plastic waste in the area, which will then be recycled into reusable shopping bags.

“To date, we have already successfully eliminated all kinds of single-use plastic from restaurants in The Sustainable City and now, working closely with our partners, we are phasing out plastic bags,” said Salah Habib, chief executive of Diamond Developers, who manage the community.

Updated: July 02, 2022, 4:00 AM
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