The Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi and major supermarket and malls have declared February 24-26 a "Plastic Bag Free Weekend".
Plastic bags to be phased out in UAE
ABU DHABI // Five supermarkets and the Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi (EAD) are teaming up at the weekend to encourage shoppers to shun plastic bags as part of a larger campaign to teach the public about the impact the bags have on the environment.
The campaign, launched yesterday, supports a plan by the Ministry of Environment and Water to phase out plastic bags over the coming months and ban them by January 1, 2013.
From tomorrow until Saturday, the public can drop by kiosks in local malls to pick up one of 25,000 free reusable bags.
The supermarkets' 39 outlets will not provide their customers with the usual plastic bags for purchases this weekend, but instead will offer either reusable plastic ones or biodegradable alternatives such as bags made of jute.
Mariam al Shanasy, the deputy minister of the Ministry of Environment and Water, said their studies have shown that 11.6 billion bags are being used annually.
The ministry has already distributed 10,000 bags made of jute to school pupils, she said, as part of the 'Make UAE Plastic Bag Free!' project.
"Through this campaign, we are encouraging the public to use environmentally friendly alternatives and to start reducing their use of plastic bags," said Jaber al Jaberi, the executive director at EAD's environment operations sector.
"Every time we reach for a plastic bag we need to stop and think about the effect it has on our natural heritage," he said.
Plastic makes up 19 per cent of domestic waste in Abu Dhabi city, according to the Centre for Waste Management - Abu Dhabi.
Many of the bags end up in the sea, where they collect and leach toxic chemicals into the water. Others drift into the desert, where they can be lethal for camels and other animals drawn to ingest them.
And even the plastic that ends up in landfills can take hundreds of years to break down.
Denis Jackson, the store manager for Abela stores, said the company would offer rewards to shoppers reusing plastic bags, and would train staff in how to cut down on plastic.
Srividya Krishnan, 28, an Indian housewife in Abu Dhabi who shops for groceries at least once a week, said getting the support of the major retailers in this campaign was a "good step".
"I should start carrying my own reusable bags," she said.
Edward Yucoc, 39, a Filipino store manager in Abu Dhabi, does not carry a reusable bag when he shops at Lulu Hypermarket every week. But he does try to fit all his goods into two plastic bags.
"I hate it when people use plastic bags indiscriminately," he said. "I've seen some shoppers pack a single item in one bag which is ridiculous."