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One of the world's most oil-rich areas is placing a momentous ban on single-use plastics — here's why it's such a big deal

The law would apply to plastic bottles, chip bags, balloons, cutlery, plastic bags, and any other single-use plastic items.

UAE's single-use plastic ban

Photo Credit: iStock

The United Arab Emirates (UAE), one of the world's most oil-rich nations, is taking a new step toward reducing pollution by banning the use of single-use plastic starting in January 2024.

The nationwide law will first apply to single-use plastic bags, which will be prohibited from being imported, produced, or circulated beginning January 1, 2024, as the Associated Press noted earlier this year, based on reporting from the state-run platform WAM. 

A ban on plastic bottles, food packaging, balloons, cutlery, and other single-use plastic items will take effect on January 1, 2026, per The National.

The government said that everyone from retailers to consumers should prepare for the transition with "suitable, sustainable, and multi-use alternatives in all shopping stores, retail stores, and sales outlets on a permanent basis," according to Packaging Insights

While the law aims to reduce plastic pollution, it is also part of the UAE's larger goal to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. The country also wants to reduce plastic waste in oceans, as WAM noted in 2022. 

Currently, plastic makes up 80% of all trash in the ocean, with at least 14 million tons of plastic ending up in our waters every year. Estimates say there are now between 15 and 51 trillion pieces of plastic in the world's oceans.

The negative impacts of plastic use are well known. Single-use plastic products take decades, if not centuries, to degrade, and microplastics have found their way inside the bodies of animals, marine life, birds, and even humans.

By banning single-use plastic, the UAE is taking a step closer to sustainability. Last year, the emirate of Dubai began charging shoppers for using plastic bags, while Abu Dhabi, another emirate, banned most plastic bags.

The UAE consumed 11 billion single-use plastic bags annually, equivalent to 1,182 plastic bags per person yearly, according to a 2020 report by the Environment Agency in Abu Dhabi.

The country has introduced various incentives for businesses to switch to reusable packaging. Incentives include subsidies, tax incentives to reduce plastic consumption, grants for research projects, and a "Plastic Smart" program to encourage people to switch to single-use packaging, as Happy Eco News reported.

Also, according to Happy Eco News, many hotels and resorts have started replacing plastic straws with straws made of other materials, and others are reducing single-use plastic water bottle consumption by providing refillable bottles to customers. 

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