Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Nearly half of UAE residents still prefer plastic bags

The Gulf Today, 14 Sept 2010

WHEN it comes to shopping, about 48 per cent of the UAE residents still prefer plastic carrier bags rather than eco-friendly alternatives, according to the federal environmental watchdog.
At the same time, 84 per cent of the population believes that they have the spirit to reduce consumption of plastic bags, revealed a recent survey by the UAE Ministry of Environment and Water (MoEW).
The study, aimed at profiling the “UAE free of plastic bags” campaign, has been carried out by the ministry to screen the rates of residents’ consumption of both plastic and biodegradable bags.
The preliminary results of the survey pointed out that 65 per cent of the UAE residents consume less than 20 plastic bags a week, while 55 per cent re-use plastic bags.
Dr Maryam Hassan Al Shinasi, executive director for technical affairs at the MoEW, said that 85 per cent of the survey respondents were aware of the health and environmental dangers due to the use of plastic, and 93 per cent of them were ready to support initiatives to limit the use of plastic bags.
“Only 35 per cent of the survey respondents, [however], were satisfied about the role of governments in educating the public on the hazards of plastic bag use,” she added.
The MoEW had earlier disclosed that the UAE’s annual consumption of plastic bags had been estimated at one billion plastic carrier bags per year, and plastic materials had been accounted at 10.9 per cent of the country’s total amount of domestic waste.
“Every month, the country produces 8,000 tonnes of plastic films, used as the material to make bags and wrap them,” according to statistics, based on which the ministry issued a ministerial resolution prohibiting printing logos on non-biodegradable plastic carry bags used in supermarkets, retail outlets and other kinds of business establishments.
“Shops were not allowed to print commercial names, products names, advertisements, and anything else on non-biodegradable plastic bags, under the new resolution.”
In the beginning of the current year, the MOEW launched the three-year “UAE free of plastic” 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.
“The drive is expected to significantly protect the country’s environment and public health and animals as plastic bags pose a serious danger to them.”
Dr Al Shinasi noted, “The first phase of the national anti-plastic campaign focused on spreading message among people from all walks of life. The awareness session drew attention to the UAE’s excessive consumption of plastic bags by the residents.”
“The second phase of the UAE-free-of-plastic-bags-drive that has been currently running focuses on the presentation of environmentally-friendly alternatives to plastic bags. The campaign’s third stage, defining the legislation against the use of plastic bags and enforcement of the laws, will wind up by the end of 2012,” she added.
According to her, the battle against plastic bags has been announced to inspire the country’s residents to completely discard the habit of plastic bags usage, and protect both human and animal life.
“Another MoEW study disclosed that the plastic bags thrown out carelessly led to the death of large numbers of animals on land and under water. Marine mammals like sea turtles as well as grazing animals such as camels, cows and goats fall victim to the plastic bags that remain trapped inside their digestive systems, eventually leading to their demise,” pointed out Dr Al Shinasi.
According to the study, plastic bags are responsible for 50 per cent of the deaths of camels in the UAE.
“Plastic products challenge the existence of above 200 different marine species, including fish, seals and sea turtles, dolphins and whales. A number of marine species 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,” she elaborated.
“Plastic carry bags also distort the aesthetic appearance of the cities and add a burden of high waste management expenses. The non-biodegradable bags are one of the gravest environmental pollutants, as the earth needs several years to decompose them,” she opined.
“They turn into one of the most dangerous contaminants on the planet, causing serious environmental imbalance, as a result of the impact of toxic substances left in the soil, besides of course, the pollution that occurs in the seas and lakes,” said Dr Al Shinasi,
“The harmful substances also pose a direct threat to human health when used,” he noted.
According to the latest survey, 83 per cent of the public are aware that the eco-friendly bags have been produced from cotton, linen and paper. The study proposed that 50 per cent more awareness must be spread among the community on the dangers of the plastic bags.
Dr Al Shinasi urged all segments of society to take initiatives individually as well as collectively to reduce the use of plastic bags and contribute to the wellbeing of their surrounding environment.

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