ABU DHABI: Plastic bags are expected to be banned in the capital’s shops by the middle of next year, pre-empting a complete ban nationwide by about three years. A draft resolution submitted yesterday to the Executive Council of Abu Dhabi by the Centre of Waste Management called for a ban on the use of plastic bags in shopping centres.
Nabil al Mudallal, senior engineer at the centre, said the resolution was expected to be in effect by January 1.
“Shops will then have six months to consume all their stock of plastic bags and replace them with either paper or cloth bags,” said Mr al Mudallal.
He advised: “People should start getting into the habit of using reusable bags for their shopping.”
Dr Bader al Harahsheh, the general manager of the centre, said shops that did not comply with the ban “will face a hefty fine of not less than Dh10,000 (US$2,700)”.
The “UAE Free of Plastic Bags” campaign was launched in Dubai by the Ministry of Environment and Water last month, part of a plan to ban all non-biodegradable plastic bags for environmental and health reasons by 2013.
The ban would apply to Abu Dhabi sooner because it did not take into account the bags used for refuse collection, said Mr al Mudallal.
“The ban for now is directed at retail shops and supermarkets, like Carrefour or Lulu or the Co-op, as well as the shops in malls like clothing shops,” he said.
“While Dubai is planning to ban all plastic bags, we are going to target bags used for shopping first, and work on producing plastic that is environmentally friendly and biodegradable, which we will use for things like rubbish bags.”
Certain stores, including Lulu Hypermarket, have already started to phase out non-biodegradable bags and replace them with alternatives – bags made with “oxo-biodegradable” plastic that break down into non-poisonous materials in under a year.
Mr al Mudallal said shopping bags were the priority for now as they could make up 50 per cent of residents’ plastic consumption.
“We know it can be done,” he said. “We know we can easily not have to rely on plastic bags for our shopping.
“Take Ikea as an example. They use paper bags and it is easy and convenient.”
Abdul Maheed, 28, from India, who runs a small grocery store on Airport Road in Abu Dhabi, said shops like his would easily be able to fall in line with the ban.
“Plastic is bad for the environment,” he said. “We don’t use a big number of plastic bags anyway, so it won’t be a problem. Paper is natural and can be easily recycled.”
Lemuel Pabito, a 21-year-old Filipino who works as a cashier in a stationery shop, also thought a ban on plastic bags would work.
“It won’t be that hard for us to switch; it’s not at all a problem for us,” he said.
“It would be better to not use plastic bags, as they are not biodegradable and they’re not good for the environment.”
Edward Delos Reyes, an electrical foreman who is also from the Philippines, said: “I’m used to plastic bags since I’ve been using them for such a long time. But whatever is good for the environment is also good for me.”
Dr al Harahsheh said the Abu Dhabi Government would license laboratories to test shopping bags to make sure they did not contain hazardous materials.
The problem was finding a replacement for plastic that suited both the environment and the consumer. “The plastic that is used for things like covering food or water bottles or hot drinks can be made biodegradable, but the first priority is to make sure they are safe,” said Mr al Mudallal. “We have not yet found the right solution to make all plastic safe for consumers as well as the environment, but this is a long-term process and we are working on it step by step.”