The new tariff on single-use bags that was introduced in Dubai supermarkets last month has led to a dramatic fall in plastic use among shoppers.
Supermarket chain Spinneys reported a 90 per cent reduction in single-use bags being sold compared with the volume that were given away before the 25 fills ($0.07) charge was brought in on July 1.
Tom Harvey, the commercial general manager of Spinneys, which has more than 65 outlets in the UAE, said shoppers are embracing green-friendly alternatives to single-use bags.
“The reduction in the amount of single-use bags [being used] has been absolutely phenomenal,” he said in an interview on radio station Dubai Eye.
“Within a month of this legislation coming in, the single-use bags that we are now selling has reduced by 90 per cent from the volume that we were giving away before.
“A lot of people are bringing their own bags and they have been buying the reusable bags … in the first couple of weeks of the rules changing [there was] a massive spike in the sales of our reusable bags.”
Mr Harvey said because the “law is structured so intelligently”, it's very rapidly habit-forming, which in turn has resulted in people getting used to carrying their own bags with them when shopping.
Unlike some supermarkets, Spinneys made the decision to completely withdraw its yellow, single-use plastic bags that were synonymous with the chain's brand.
For the past month, it has been using paper bags and reusable bags instead.
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“What we did was take the plastic bags out and as a temporary measure we have paper bags, but our plan is still very much to eradicate all single-use bags from our stores,” he said.
“We are in the middle of producing the new reusable bag that is made by D-grade here in Dubai.
“[It will be made] from plastic that has been collected in the UAE and will hit the shelves very soon and be the only bag that we offer, with an entry price point of Dh1.”
The new bags will also use plastic waste from Spinneys stores.
Mr Harvey said the supermarket is working towards a zero landfill plan, with this being one of its key elements.
In terms of the single-use plastic bags used to package loose fruit and vegetables, they are still being used in-store, but customers are being encouraged to use free, recycled brown paper bags as an alternative.
“We are also exploring where there are opportunities to have a recycled plastic bag for [loose fruits and vegetables],” he said.
“But the tricky thing we've come across is there are a lot that claim to be compostable, but actually, the nature of how they need to be composted is not something that actually makes them truly recyclable and good for the environment.
“So that's still a work in progress.
“There are so many other things that are single-use items that we are now reviewing and seeing how we can eradicate them from stores in the future, but we're really pleased with the steps we've been able to take so far.”
Dubai introduced the 25 fils charge for single-use plastic bags on July 1, shortly after Abu Dhabi banned their use in retail outlets.
The emirate's executive council said the charge in Dubai will be evaluated in stages before single-use plastic bags are banned completely in two years' time.