UAE - Shopping for weekly groceries on Friday mornings has been a ritual for the Anees family for several years. Like every Friday, Egyptian Nada Anees and her daughters stepped into their neighbourhood supermarket to shop for their weekly necessities.
But this time, there was the added incentive for them to do something for the environment
As the 25-fil tariff on single-use plastic bags came into force in Dubai, scores of families and shoppers like Anees have already begun to take small steps towards a plastic-free future.
“I was aware of the new rule and carried bags from my home. However, we are not used to carrying our bags, and I forgot them in my car. I had to rush back to our car with my daughters to get the reusable bags,” Anees told Khaleej Times.
She believes using reusable bags is a valuable lesson her three daughters need to learn for the future. “There is no solution other than completely stopping use of single-use plastics,” Anees added. While visiting several retail outlets on Day One of the tariff law, most Dubai shoppers told Khaleej Times they are ready to shell out a little extra to buy reusable bags. Though there were a few residents who were unaware of the new charge, many at supermarket counters were seen placing items in bags they had carried from home.
Delighted with the change
Dubai plans to completely ban single-use bags in the next two years, which provides consumers enough time to change their behaviour toward the environment.
At Carrefour City Centre, Midriff, Amy, a teacher based in Dubai, welcomed the move. She said: “I am ready to pay the specified charge for the single-use plastic bags which I will re-use for my next shopping outing,” said the Londoner, who has been a Dubai resident for two years.
Recollecting memories from her hometown, Amy said, “We carry our bags to the supermarkets back in London, which has become a norm. It delights me to reduce the usage of single-use plastics slowly.”
“With this move, residents in Dubai will slowly transform their shopping habits and begin stocking reusable bags in their vehicles,” said the British expatriate.
Carrefour offers customers various alternatives to single use bags, including reusable bags for 50 fils, woven bags for Dh2.50, and heavy-duty bags for Dh11.50. Posters have been placed all over the supermarkets, encouraging customers to bring their bags from home to manage their spending, and limit the use of plastic consumption.
Carrying own plastic bags since childhood
Jessica Laryea, a Canadian expatriate in Dubai, has been using biodegradable bags since childhood. She said she grew up carrying reusable bags, which eventually became a habit. “It’s a great idea to charge for single-use plastics and eventually ban it. It would encourage residents to bring their reusable bags instead of causing a lot of harm to the environment,” said Laryea.
Canada has already prohibited the use of single-use plastics some years ago.
“We see people getting their bags to retail outlets. I have many reusable and netted bags for the veggies and fruits, which is great for shopping,” she added. After Laryea unloads the groceries at home, she said she either washes the bags or keeps them for her next purchases.
At Spinneys Supermarket in Bur Dubai, Roxan, a Filipina expatriate, was ready to pay for the reusable bag and keep it for her subsequent purchases. She said: “It will be difficult for the consumers in the beginning, but most of us will limit the use of reusable plastic bags and be willing to carry our bags once we realise their importance,”
“It is our responsibility, and we will eventually be responsible shoppers,” added Roxan.
Retailers hail the move
Géant, recently acquired by GMG, has also committed to a marked reduction in single-use plastics usage in-store, with the long-term aim to make food packaging 100 per cent recyclable, compostable or reusable.
A significant step in this direction is launching a dedicated section in all 12 Géant supermarkets and hypermarkets in the UAE where customers can purchase packaging alternatives, including jute and woven bags, said Marc Laurent, president, GMG Consumer - Retail.
Laila Mostafa Abdullatif, director-general of Emirates Nature-WWF, said: “Our corporate partners play a crucial role in the green recovery. Single-use plastics such as shopping bags have a devastating impact on the UAE’s climate and biodiversity, affecting our food and water security.”
She added: “Corporates have the reach to drive behaviour change at great scale and encouraging customers to single-use plastics with more intention while also supporting our programmes is a two-fold advance towards a green, sustainable future.”
Commenting on the tariffs, Kamal Vachani, group director of Al Maya Group, said: “Most customers who arrived at our retail outlets were aware of the newly-imposed tariffs. For example, they came in well prepared with cotton, jute, and reusable plastic bags.”
He praised the UAE for mandating the tariffs on single-use bags and said: “People are happy as this is a way they can do their bit for the environment.”
Cotton bags at outlets are priced at Dh2 and Dh4, depending on size, and woven bags cost Dh2 to Dh3, respectively. “Jute bags in our outlets are priced between Dh4 and Dh9,” Vachani added.
Sophie Corcut, sustainability manager at Spinneys, said that it’s great to see the single-use plastic bags re-purposed into something practical and stylish. “We are dedicated to supporting the growth of the circular economy in the UAE, which is why we back the UAE’s single-use policy and are going the extra step to enforce the removal of single-use plastic followed by paper bags across all our stores,”
She added that sustainability lies at the heart of its business strategy, and the brand is committed to supporting the national target to ban all disposable bags in the UAE by 2024 completely.
Bernardo Perloiro, chief operating officer of GCC at Majid Al Futtaim Retail, said: “We are working hard to encourage sustainable shopping behaviours and provide our customers with convenient options for an easy switch,”
“The new government direction will take us closer to achieving our commitment to becoming Net Positive in carbon and water by 2040,” he added.
– With inputs from Dhanusha Gokulan
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