Abu Dhabi's ban on single-use plastic bags is a step in the right direction

Only drastic measures like total bans on the material will work to protect the environment from further degradation


Michael Gomes

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Published: Tue 31 May 2022, 9:31 PM

The UAE is taking sustainable retail seriously with Abu Dhabi’s ban on single-use plastics coming into force from Wednesday. It is the responsible way to go shopping with the environment under pressure and our lives at risk from plastic pollution. Here’s why. Single-use or any plastic doesn’t really break down.

They simply break up into microplastics and remain in the environment from where humans and animals inhale or unwittingly consume them. Several countries, including the UAE, are concerned about the rampant use of this material and have resorted to bans, levies, and penalties. While the UAE government has taken the first step at the retail level, residents have a responsibility to limit plastic use at home while they carry reusable bags when they head to stores.

There are cloth and recycled plastic options available. It’s back to basics in a sense, shopping the old-fashioned way before our tryst with plastic happened more than five decades ago that hasn’t gone too well when we look back at what we have done to nature.

In the UAE, the war on plastics has begun in right earnest and there’s no turning back. Shops and supermarkets in the capital are required to comply, and residents will see the change from Wednesday. Dubai’s ban on the material will come into force in July. Other emirates are also expected to join the mission to rid the country of single-use plastics that are not just toxic to humans but are also causing harm to animals in the soil and water.

Our natural habitats are being choked by what we discard. While single-use plastic bags are cheap and convenient, they have caused much harm to the environment over decades. Experts believe it is already too late to get back what we have lost, but it’s never too late to save life in our soils and oceans.

According to the World Wildlife Fund for Nature, around 40 per cent of plastics consumed are single-use. Plates, bags, cups and containers are made of this ubiquitous material. “The amount of time, energy and effort that goes into producing, exporting, and importing these products just doesn’t add up - especially if they’re made to last forever,” the WWF said.

These single-use bags are made of fossil-fuel based chemicals (petrochemicals). Plastic, a synthetic polymer, was invented in the 19th Century but it began to be widely used in the seventies. It was affordable, easy to produce and changed the way we package and store food. We are now paying the price for using 8.3 billion tons of plastic from the 1950s. Only drastic measures like total bans on the material will work to protect the environment from further degradation. In the desert, camels tend to eat these single-use plastic bags, which block and tear their intestines. Fauna in the Arabian Gulf is also threatened by this material. And the sooner we discard it completely, the better for the environment.

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