Retailers in Abu Dhabi are preparing to phase out plastic bags as the emirate makes big moves to encourage residents to reduce their environmental footprint.
From June 1, shops in the capital will not be allowed to hand out single-use plastic bags to customers.
The ban, announced by the Environment Agency Abu Dhabi on Wednesday, will lead customers to adopt reusable alternatives like tote bags.
A spokesman for Spinneys, which has 11 branches across the capital, said the ban had been anticipated for some time.
“We have been working closely with the government in Abu Dhabi, as well as [environmental group] Emirates Nature, on the reduction of single-use plastics within our stores,” he said.
“We already have alternative solutions in place, and a few stores such as our Layan store, that do not have single-use plastic bags available.
“These stores were used as test cases in anticipation of the ban coming into place.”
While alternatives such as paper bags made of recycled paper are available, he said the company would continue to run awareness campaigns within its stores to encourage customers to make use of reusable bags, which are the most sustainable option.
V Nandakumar, director of marketing and communications for Lulu Group, said a big part of the transition would be educating customers on the need to phase out single-use plastics.
“We have been very proactive in our efforts to become a more sustainable retailer and introduced alternatives to single-use plastic carrier bags two years ago,” he said.
“A lot of the work centres on making customers understand why it is important to reduce their plastic consumption.
“We have posted, and will continue to post, messages on our social channels and have signage in-store letting people know that plastic carrier bags will be totally phased out, in-store, by June 1.”
At the moment, LuLu customers have the option to buy reusable plastic bags for Dh2.50, which are replaced free of cost if they become damaged over time.
The retail chain also sells a bag made of a mix of jute and cotton for Dh7.50. Within the next few months the checkouts will be stocked with cloth bags, priced at Dh1.
“These new cloth bags will be available across all our stores by June 1,” Mr Nandakumar said.
“Being a responsible retailer, we are aligned with the government and its goals to reduce plastic waste, so we are currently looking at ways to switch out plastics used in fruits and vegetables packaging.
“We are working on options of paper bags and corn starch bags.”
As part of the recent announcement, the agency said it would also implement measures to reduce demand for about 16 single-use plastic products, including cups, stirrers, lids and cutlery.
The plan also includes the phasing out of single-use styrofoam cups, plates and food containers by 2024.
Mohammad Badri, director of Eros Group, which has 14 stores across the UAE, welcomed the move with open arms.
Like many retailers in the capital, it had started to move to alternatives to plastic bags before the announcement.
“As of last month, we have introduced paper bags and have seen a positive response from our customers,” said Mr Badri.
“We decided to make a switch to paper bags last year as part of Eros Group’s commitment to creating a sustainable and eco-friendly future.
“On average, our shoppers use two to three bags per trip. That is over one million bags per month, which creates two to three tonnes of plastic each year.
“We welcome the step taken by the government to reduce and discourage the use of single-use plastic bags and in creating a more sustainable environment for generations to come.
“It will also have an important social impact by allowing our customers to make sustainable choices.”