Dubai Airports to ban single-use plastics in 2020

The company made the pledge as part of its commitment to reducing its negative impact on the environment

FILE - In this April 20, 2017 file photo, Emirates planes are parked at the Dubai International Airport in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. The airport said Monday, Jan. 28, 2019, that it remains the world's busiest for international travel and that it welcomed over 89 million passengers in 2018. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili, File)
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Dubai Airports will ban single-use plastics at the world’s busiest international airport beginning next year.

The company, which manages Dubai International Airport and Al Maktoum International Airport, on Monday pledged to ban items such as plastic knives and forks, straws and shopping bags, from consumer spaces from January 1, 2020.

Dubai Airports recycles over 43,000 tonnes of paper, glass, and other waste, each year, in a bid to limit its impact on the environment. Over the past six months, the company collected and disposed of 16 tonnes of single-use plastic bottles and bottle caps.

"At an airport that hosts some 90 million people per year, we believe we can make a tangible difference by eliminating single-use plastics in consumer spaces," said Eugene Barry, executive vice president of Commercial at Dubai Airports.

By banning single use plastic at the airport, the UAE is able to send a strong message to the 89 million plus people who pass through our airports annually and act as leaders in the global fight against plastic pollution

"Today we are making a commitment to work with all of our concession and hospitality partners to achieve that goal."

Last week, on World Environment Day, Dubai Airports worked with more than 100 businesses operating at DXB to prevent the distribution of more than 150,000 straws, the equivalent of 30,000 metres of plastic.

Single-use plastics have long been a thorn in the side of environmentalists. Countries have slowly begun to introduce complete bans — the latest being Canada who on Sunday said it would stop distributing single-use plastics entirely by 2021.

It is estimated that 8.3 billion tonnes of plastic pollution has been produced around the world since 1950 — the equivalent of 16,600 Burj Khalifas.

The effect that plastic pollution has had on the environment has been crippling. It has been responsible for the deaths of more than 1.1 million birds and animals each year.

There are said to be two million plastic bags in use each minute around the world, the average time that each bag is ever used for is 12 minutes. Plastic bags can also take up to a thousand years to decompose.

"An airport acts as a literal and figurative doorway to a nation, by welcoming millions to the culture, lifestyle and development of the nation,” said Habiba Al Mar’ashi, chairperson of Emirates Environmental Group.

“By banning single use plastic at the airport, the UAE is able to send a strong message to the 89 million plus people who pass through our airports annually and act as leaders in the global fight against plastic pollution."

While the announcement has been widely welcomed, not least because DXB has been named as the world’s busiest airport for the past five years with 89.1 million visitors last year alone, there were still concerns over the damage that air travel is causing to the environment.

Air transport contributes to 4.9 per cent of human-caused climate change, according to an international body established by the United Nations Environment Programme and the World Meteorological Organisation.

Chief among their concerns were the high amount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases being emitted by planes.

A recent study by Airbus revealed that the problem is only going to get worse as air traffic grows across the Middle East over the next 10 years.

It was projected that, by 2034, there would be 2365 new passenger aircraft in the region’s skies.

According to the latest figures released by the Air Transport Action Group, there were 859 million tonnes of carbon dioxide produced by the air travel industry in 2017.

In the same period, 4.1 billion passengers were carried by the world’s airlines.

The ATAG website also stated that around 80 per cent of carbon dioxide emissions from planes occur on flights that were longer than 1,500km, for which there was no practical alternative mode of transport.