Abu Dhabi’s paper-bag boy wins international environment award
ABU DHABI // A twelve-year-old boy has picked up a prestigious global prize for his efforts to help protect the environment.
Abdul Muqeet started turning discarded newspapers into carrier bags in 2010. He began handing them out in his neighbourhood of Madinat Zayed and, so far, has distributed 5,000.
He has now received the International Diana Award – one of the UK’s most prestigious prizes and signed by the British prime minister, David Cameron – for his outstanding contribution to the community and environment.
“It is a great honour and encouragement for me. I am delighted and honoured to receive this prestigious award,” said Abdul, a Grade 8 pupil at Abu Dhabi Indian School.
“This is the first time that I have received any certificate signed by the United Kingdom’s prime minister, David Cameron.
“The award was given to me for my contribution to society and the environment in protecting it from harmful use of plastic bags,” said Abdul, who has also been dubbed the “paper-bag boy of Abu Dhabi”.
He said: “It has given me a big morale boost to continue my journey towards helping to save the environment and engaging more people to contribute.”
But Abdul’s self-appointed mission is not simply about plastic bags. He is determined to start spreading awareness about how much food is wasted during Ramadan, which is expected to start on June 29.
“During Ramadan, I will be spreading the message among people about not wasting food,” he said. “I will start communicating about it from my building and spread the message through social [media] sites like Facebook and Twitter.”
Abdul also plans to visit hotels, particularly the Beach Rotana, where he inaugurated a composting machine a few weeks ago, which recycles discarded food into fertiliser.
Nahtam Social Responsibility, an Abu Dhabi-based private voluntary organisation, submitted Abdul’s details to the awarding committee in the UK and handed the certificate to him on Monday.
The voluntary body helps to create ideas that make a difference and encourages individuals to give back to society.
Abdul also has long-term plans to engage with more of the country’s youth. “I am planning to open an eco-kids club. Under this we can hold beach clean-up drives, and spread messages about not throwing rubbish in undesignated places,” he said.
One of Abdul’s most prominent accolades came from Abu Dhabi’s Centre of Waste Management, which acknowledged his efforts in protecting the environment from the harmful effects of plastic bags and engaging with the centre for the international conference, “World Future Energy Summit”, in 2011.
Abdul promoted environmental issues on behalf of the centre at the summit.
“We requested the Centre of Waste Management to provide us with a letter that could certify my contributions to the environment and they issued us [with it],” Abdul said.
The schoolboy also won an Abu Dhabi Award in 2012 for his environmental work, and he was the only child in the Middle East to be invited to an international children’s event in the US last September to tell his story.
George Itty, co-founder and chief executive of Nahtam, said: “We have selected Abdul Muqeet because of his contribution to the environment through his projects of turning discarded newspapers into shopping bags and regularly striving to build awareness among people about preserving the environment,” Mr Itty said.
The International Diana Award was launched in 2011 in memory of the Princess of Wales, who died in 1997.
It honours young people who inspire the lives of others.
Updated: June 18, 2014 04:00 AM