A new luxury hotel in Abu Dhabi is believed to be the first in the UAE to ban single-use plastics throughout its resort.
Jumeirah at Saadiyat Island provides all of its guests with a reusable water bottle on check-in to help avoid unnecessary waste.
Its owners have also set up an on-site water filtration system in another first for the industry in the Emirates.
“The guests can take their water bottles with them when they go,” said Emily Armstrong, the hotel’s marine and environmental manager.
“So hopefully they continue to use it so they’re not using single-use plastic, even after they leave.”
Jumeirah Saadiyat Island Resort, which is owned by Sheikh Suroor Bin Mohammed Al Nahyan, opened in November this year.
Other eco initiatives launched at the resort include an extensive in-house recycling scheme, environmentally-friendly thermostats in guest rooms and biodegradable packaging for toiletries.
All straws used in its restaurants and cafes are also made of corn starch, making them compostable.
“It’s a new hotel so we are quite lucky that starting out we’re already implemented these [initiatives],” said Ms Armstrong.
“But yes, the focus has always been on sustainability.”
The Jumeirah group is already big on its conservation efforts in the UAE and runs a turtle rehabilitation project at two of its Dubai properties.
The beach and waters surrounding Saadiyat are protected, providing the inspiration for the hotel’s eco-friendly initiatives, said Ms Armstrong.
“I think it’s very easy to ignore the issue of plastic waste in a city hotel as you don’t really see where your waste is going,” she said.
“But here we are directly on the beach. Even if it’s not our waste, things are still washing up [on the shore] all the time.”
Because the hotel is still in the soft opening phase, it has yet to properly gauge the reaction of guests. But the initiatives appear to be welcome.
“Guests are happy when they receive the bottles but I think the scheme needs to be running for a while before we know how people react to it,” Ms Armstrong said.
Amruta Kshemkalyani, who works as a sustainability consultant in Dubai, said she was not aware of any other hotel in the UAE that had gone as far in terms of sustainability.
But there is a similar property - the Alila Jabal Akhdar - in Oman.
“It’s a very remotely located resort,” she said. “They had issues with infrastructure so they have their own water filtering plant. They don’t have any plastic water bottles either.”
Ms Kshemkalyani encouraged more hotels to follow the example of the Jumeirah on Saadiyat as hotels generally generate vast amounts of plastic waste.
Other business sectors in the country are taking similar steps to address the issue, with the supermarket chain Waitrose recently introducing a charge for plastic shopping bags. Meanwhile, plastic straws and bottles are off the menu at Hilton’s Abu Dhabi hotels, as well as Park Hyatt, The British Club near Mina Port, the health food restaurant Skinny Genie and numerous other restaurant chains.
Additionally, the popular food ordering service Zomato now gives users of its app the opportunity to deselect being given plastic cutlery with their meal, though customers have said their orders often still come with plastic items in spite of their requests.