Residents in Abu Dhabi and Dubai now have more places to trade in plastic for rewards as the country continues to make big strides in recycling.
Reverse-vending machines installed at Yas Mall and the World Trade Centre mall in Abu Dhabi allow people to recycle their plastic bottles in exchange for shopping vouchers.
One plastic bottle is equivalent to one point and for each 250 points earned, users will receive a Dh50 voucher to be used at a number of participating outlets at the shopping centres, including Lulu, Carrefour and Virgin.
In June, an average of 35 kilograms of plastic bottles were collected per day at the WTC mall.
The machine was used about 11,500 times in June, said Ayoola Brimmo from Cycled.
“Uptake in weight increased by 94 per cent from May to June while usage increased by 190 per cent. Users can translate their points to shopping vouchers or Netflix gift cards, which can be used to pay for a Netflix subscription.”
First piloted in 2020 and officially launched last year, two Cycled SmartBins have been installed in both malls.
They work by scanning the product to identify the material before sorting, collecting and processing the containers, and rewarding the user.
Users are encouraged to download the Cycled mobile application. They need to scan the QR code on the machine before depositing their plastic waste.
Then they simply hit the “redeem reward” option on the app to collect their vouchers.
With the recent plastic bag ban enforced in the emirate, more users have been flocking to the machines to recycle their rubbish.
Leni Marasigan, 30, welcomed the ban on plastic bags and said she regularly uses the Cycled Smart Bin to dispose of her plastic waste.
She said providing incentives to users with shopping vouchers is a good way to make people more conscious about the benefits of recycling, not only for the planet, but for their pockets too.
On Monday, Abu Dhabi resident Rowena Mercado and her son Jaydean, 14, used the Cycled SmartBin at World Trade Centre mall for the first time.
With the cost of living on the rise, she said the opportunity to gain rewards from her rubbish would help to reduce her monthly food bill.
A ban on single-use plastic bags in Abu Dhabi came into force at the end of May. It was introduced to protect the environment and address the high rate of plastic use across the UAE, which is about four times the global average.
Shoppers in the emirate either have to bring their own bags or pay for reusable bags, which are on sale in stores and supermarkets. Single-use plastic bags are no longer available, even at a charge.
Similar initiatives have been introduced to tackle the problem of plastic waste.
Commuters can now earn points that can be used to pay for fares each time they deposit plastic bottles in a reverse-vending machine at Abu Dhabi’s main bus station.
In March, the Integrated Transport Centre of the Department of Municipalities and Transport launched the “Points for Plastic: the Bus Tariff” initiative that encourages commuters to earn points each time they hand in empty plastic bottles, with the points used to pay for trips on public buses.
A plastic deposit machine operated by DGrade has been installed in Abu Dhabi’s main bus station, enabling passengers to exchange empty plastic containers for points.
Each single small bottle measuring 600ml or less will earn a point while larger containers or bottles exceeding 600ml will earn two points.
Each point is worth 10 fils, making 10 points equal to Dh1, which can be transferred to the “Hafilat” personalised bus card. On average, about 3,000 bottles are deposited into the machine each week.
Dubai follows suit
Earlier this month, Dubai introduced a mandatory charge of 25 fils ($0.07) on the purchase of single-use bags.
It is the first step in a plan to ban such bags in the emirate in the next two years.
Some supermarkets in the city also encourage customers to gain rewards from their waste through the use of reverse-vending machines.
Operated by DGrade, a company which turns plastic into clothing, a number of machines have been installed in Carrefour and Spinneys supermarkets.
They are located in shops in districts such as Layan, Arabian Ranches 2, Al Wasl and Jumeirah.
Emma Barber, director of DGrade, said rewards vary, with Spinneys doing a raffle where users have to put their vouchers from the machine into a draw to win shopping vouchers, while Carrefour converts points gained from plastic recycling and adds them to its Share Rewards programme.