Single-use plastics charge for UAE 'in the pipeline'

Talks under way between environment agency and government ministry

DUBAI , UNITED ARAB EMIRATES , April 4 – 2019 :- Left to Right – Winnie Vilander and Chonay Louw holding their plastic bags after doing shopping at the Spinneys  supermarket in Dubai Marina in Dubai. ( Pawan Singh / The National ) For News. Story by Patrick

A compulsory charge for single-use plastics is “in the pipeline”, a senior environment agency official has confirmed.

Discussions about the policy continue with the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change, Shaikha Al Hosani, executive director of the environment quality sector at the Environment Agency Abu Dhabi, told The National.

It comes after a series of UAE businesses introducing their own voluntary charges for single-use plastics such as carrier bags. They have been successful in driving down consumption while proving popular with shoppers, who are becoming conscious of environmental issues.

Any compulsory charge could include items such as plastic cutlery, which is routinely provided with takeaway food, as well as plastic bags, with a minimum fee potentially being introduced across the country.

Ms Al Hosani, speaking at the launch of the Greenhouse Gas Inventory, said recycling and reducing waste of plastics was one of the ways the public could help to tackle climate change.

"We have an initiative … to put more incentives and constraints at the same time on plastic waste," she said. "It is an ongoing effort under the supervision of the ministry, we are working together with the big grocery markets to have the incentives both negative and positive for the use of the plastic waste."

When asked about the potential for a charge for single use plastics, Ms Al Hosani said: “It’s in the pipeline, and we are working with the ministry on that.”

Other countries, such as the UK, have compulsory charges for single-use plastic bags while others, such as New Zealand, have banned them.

Abu Dhabi is also seeking to put in place new infrastructure to encourage people to move to more environmentally friendly vehicles, Ms Al Hosani said.

A recent initiative by Etihad Airlines to use biofuels for flights could also help to counter climate change.

The first commercial flight powered, in part, by fuel from Abu Dhabi-grown plants flew in January between the UAE capital and Amsterdam.

“We have to encourage more sustainable transportation, and the transformation to the use of clean fuel has contributed significantly,” said Ms Al Hosani. “We are working to provide the infrastructure to encourage people to use electric cars and other more sustainable transport options.

“There is a shared responsibility concept with the public, that they should be part of this. The solution shouldn’t be providing more and more energy to people. The solution should be controlling the demand side and to be more sustainable, so we work together.”