With a plan to eliminate all single-use plastic soon…

It’s almost here, the much-discussed, titanic next front of Abu Dhabi’s war on plastic. From tomorrow, Wednesday June 1, the distribution of single use plastic bags, anywhere in the emirate, will be an offence punishable by fines.

And just in time. According to some EAD reported estimates, the UAE had been getting through 11 billion plastic bags each year, that’s more than a thousand for every inhabitant, and roughly three times the global average.

And, contrary to what the message of 90s bubblegum pop outfit Aqua would have us believe, life in plastic is not fantastic. At least not the single-use stuff. The plastic fact sheet on Earthday.org ominously states that “virtually every piece of plastic that was ever made still exists in some shape or form”.

It’s all there, circulating in our ecosystems, marinating in our oceans and in addition to being a turtle-choking eyesore, can potentially pose catastrophic health hazards to humans too.

Putting a time frame on the ban

A communication issued by the Environment Agency — Abu Dhabi (EAD) on April 6, 2022) now orderd that the ban on the use of single-use plastic bags would be effective from June 2022.

To prepare customers and business owners for this deadline, a widespread awareness programme was put into effect.

Now as deadline day looms very large, some of the UAE’s biggest brands have been keen to show their support for the initiative.

What are the alternatives for single-use plastic bags?

The reason the deployment of single-use plastic bags became so popular in the first place is primarily because they were cheap enough to give to customers for free (at least in terms of transparent up front charging), it has of course been the environment that’s been picking up the tab.

In terms of alternatives, the education of shoppers about the benefits of using and being charged for ‘bags for life’ (multiple-use plastic bags) is key. There are also plastic alternatives like tote, canvas and jute, even a biodegradable cassava composite piloted by Virgin Megastores in the UAE.

What can you do as an individual shopper?

‘Be prepared’ isn’t just great advice for Boy Scouts, it’s some pretty succinct, open-source wisdom applicable to all tribes and vibes. Arm yourself with a bag for life, take a rucksack, a cooler bag — it will take a small shift in cognitive gears, but the science is in… we can’t really afford not to make these sorts of changes.

When can we expect a total ban to fall into place?

The EAD announced that it was moving towards legislation in support of phasing out all single-use styrofoam cups, plates and food containers by 2024.

And we can’t wait for that.

Images: Getty