Abu Dhabi ban on Styrofoam: Price hikes expected as some eateries switch cups

The emirate announced a ban on single-use Styrofoam products, including cups, lids, plates, beverage containers, and food receptacles


Nasreen Abdulla

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Published: Tue 21 May 2024, 8:52 PM

Last updated: Tue 21 May 2024, 11:12 PM

For Mohammed Anwar, owner of Dallas restaurant in the Zahiya area of Abu Dhabi, Styrofoam cups have been a part and parcel of his eatery since it began in 1984. However, over the last three years, he has gradually removed these cups from his shop.

“We were told by authorities that pouring hot items in these cups could release harmful chemicals,” he said, speaking to Khaleej Times. “Ever since we came to know of this, we have been gradually phasing them out.”

On Tuesday, Abu Dhabi announced a ban on single-use Styrofoam products, including cups, lids, plates, beverage containers, and food receptacles starting from June 1. The initiative is an extension of the Abu Dhabi Single-Use Plastic Policy, and supports the aims of the Year of Sustainability.

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However, Anwar admitted that the replacement of Styrofoam cups had economic implications for his restaurant. “Styrofoam utensils and containers are very cheap,” he said. “All its alternatives, including paper cups or plates and aluminium containers are much more expensive. We have already stopped using them and have adjusted our prices to reflect this over the last few years, but small cafeterias in remote areas which have continued to use Styrofoam will have to raise their prices if they switch to alternatives.”

Dallas restaurant
Dallas restaurant

A step in the right direction

Satheesh Kumar, Managing Director of Notebook restaurant, hailed the decision and called it a step in the right direction. “It has been several years since we started using paper cups and other alternatives,” he said. “Right now, the UAE market has a lot of options for Styrofoam because the move away from it has been going on for a while.”

Satheesh Kumar
Satheesh Kumar

Exceptions to the new rule include reusable storage boxes, coolers and items intended for medical use. According to Anwar, most of the Styrofoam usage stems from food containers. “A lot of restaurants pack their burgers and sandwiches in these boxes,” he said.

Ranees Najmi, managing partner of E-duniyavu restaurant, said that many are now choosing to move towards aluminium and paper boxes for these items. “There are many alternatives including paper wrapping like the ones used by fast-food chains that can be branded with their names,” he said. “Many restaurants have invested in this for their sandwiches and burgers.”

E-duniyavu restaurant
E-duniyavu restaurant

In May 2020, the Abu Dhabi Single-Use Plastic Policy was launched, with the sale of single use plastic bags being completely banned by June 1, 2022.

Reusable crockery

As people become more mindful of their consumption, many are moving away from disposable items to serve food. “We have been mulling over shifting all our packaging towards paper and moving away from plastic,” said Satheesh. “However, cost is the only thing that is holding us back. We are on the drawing board trying to figure out how to manage the cost without raising our food prices.”

Anwar said that his new-age customers are asking for glass plates. “I have a lot of generational customers,” he said. “Their fathers used to eat at our restaurant and now they come. The new generation prefer reusable glass crockery. This comes with its own set of challenges because we have to wash them, maintain them and ensure that they stay hygienic. However, I understand that it is important for the environment.”

Ranees said that most of his customers insisted of glass cups, especially for tea. “People prefer to drink in glass cups unless they are taking it away as a parcel,” he said. “So, we are also trying our best to move away from disposable crockery.”


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