Dubai beach and camels

Dubai introduces charge for plastic bags; promises total ban within two years

Image credit: Fredrik Öhlander | Unsplash

Dubai has announced it will begin charging a fee on plastic bags, with the intention to outlaw them entirely within two years due to environmental concerns.

A statement from the government-run Dubai Media Office said the charge will start on July 1 2022. The tariff of 25fils (approximately 5p, UK currency) at purchase will apply to all single-use plastic bags from such outlets as shops, restaurants, pharmarcies and e-commerce deliveries.

The government said the ban had become necessary as both camels and turtles had died from the plastic. Reportedly, 50 per cent of camel deaths in the UAE are due to the consumption of plastic bags, while 86 per cent of dead sea turtles found on some of the Emirates’ shores were found to have consumed some sort of plastic materials.

Some food stores in the skyscraper-studded city have already been encouraging the public to bring reusable bags when shopping, reflecting a shift in public attitudes to recycling and sustainability. According to the Dubai council, 50 per cent of households segregate waste in their homes today. It added that public support for changing practices around the use of single-use plastic bags has reached 85 per cent of the emirate’s community.

“Sustainability has now become an imperative at the global level, reinforced by changing the behaviours of society in a way that reduces the environmental footprint of individuals,” the government said in its statement.

The new policy will be periodically evaluated over the next two years, assessing behavioural change in Dubai communities, until the single-use carrier bags are completely banned.

Other initiatives to inhibit the proliferation of single-use plastic bags are already in place across the United Arab Emirates. Businesses are prohibited from printing on non-biodegradable plastic bags and some supermarkets offer shoppers reusable bags – made of cloth, jute or insulation materials – at a subsidised rate to encourage uptake.

The drive to consign single-use carrier bags to the dustbin of history is a worldwide phenomenon. Chile became the first country in the Americas to introduce a plastic bag ban in 2018.

Meanwhile, the effectiveness of charging for single-use plastic bags was amply demonstrated in 2020, with the news that sales of plastic bags in the UK were down by a whopping 95 per cent, following the introduction of a 5p charge in 2015.

In May 2021, this plastic bag charge was increased to 10p, with all retailers of any size required to participate from this date.

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