BY PMA RASHEED
The Gulf Today, 13 Sep 2009
The UAE uses about one billion plastic carrier bags per year, and the plastic material account for 10.9 per cent of the total amount of household waste in the country, according to the UAE Ministry of Environment and Water (MOEW).
About 8,000 tonnes of plastic film, used as the material to make bags and wrapping them, has been produced every month in the country, according to a senior official at the MOEW.
In the wake of the statistics, the MOEW has launched a comprehensive campaign aimed at reducing the use of plastic carrier bags in the country, as a first step towards a complete ban on the bags from the year 2013.
Hunaida Quaed, Head of the Education and Awareness section at the MOEW said that supermarkets and retail outlets and other kinds of business establishments will soon be banned from printing their logos on non-biodegradable plastic carrier bags.
"Approved by the UAE cabinet, the logo ban on plastic bags will come into effect this year. However, it's not yet confirmed that when the regulations will be implemented," she added.
According to her, a range of alternatives including jute bags, canvas bags, paper bags and biodegradable plastic bags, can be used instead of plastic carrier bags.
Dr Maryam AlShinasi, Acting Executive Director for Technical Affairs in the MOEW, said, "The campaign titled 'UAE free of plastic bags' aims to create environmental awareness in the community, by educating them on the hazards of plastic bags that pose high risks to the environment."
"The initiative will focus on encouraging the public to reduce the use of plastic carriers and will educate them on the harmful impact of plastics on the environment," she added.
"All segments of the society should take initiatives individually as well as collectively to reduce the use of plastic bags and contribute to the wellbeing of their surrounding environment," she added.
"A special committee will analyse the standard specifications of plastic bags in collaboration with private sector firms, manufacturers and various municipal authorities in the nation," she added.
Al Shinasi said that the ministry has already held a series of meetings in order to prepare a preliminary draft on the specifications and standards that are commensurate with the nature of the UAE.
She said, "Ministerial decisions will come into effect soon, bringing regulations on the use of plastic bags. The plastic bag manufactures will have to abide by the application of revised specifications and standards in production."
According to her, the initiative consists of four phases, focusing on the awareness sessions in the first phase, and bringing out the available alternatives for plastic bags in the second phase.
"Meanwhile, the third phase pertains to legal actions to be enforced by concerned authorities, and the fourth phase is designed for the actual applications to prevent the use of plastic bags that expire in the year of 2013," added Al Shinasi.
"The plastic bags thrown into trash are usually burnt, which increases the emission of toxic particles into the air and that badly contaminates the atmosphere. So, the anti-plastic carrier awareness sessions, which target local as well as expatriate communities, will be conducted across the country in different languages," said Hunaida Quaed.
She said, "Moreover, the plastic products challenge the existence of above 200 different marine species, including fish, seals and sea turtles, dolphins and whales. A number of marine organisms have died due to the toxic impact of the plastic bags, which account for 10 per cent of the total industrial waste ending up in the sea."
According to her, the plastic bags had caused the deaths of a large number of animals both on the land and in the sea, when they swallowed the bags.