Degradable plastic bags are not the answer to the region’s littering problem, Dr. Abdulwahab Sadoun, Secretary-General of the Gulf Petrochemicals and Chemicals Association (GPCA), said in a media statement on Sunday.
The term “degradable plastic” is misleading, says Dr. Sadoun. “These materials contain special additives that break up the plastic into tiny particles, which remain in the environment and potentially cause greater long-term damage,” he insists.
Recent estimates put global plastic bag usage at 500 billion per year. In the UAE, people consume 11 billion plastic bags annually, according to the Ministry of Environment. Effective January 1 of this year, only degradable plastic bags will be allowed at shops and supermarkets across the country.
“While we welcome efforts to address the problem of plastic bags clogging our roads and open spaces, we advocate promoting measures that embrace environmental responsibility rather than adopting so-called degradable plastic products,” said Dr. Sadoun.
“GPCA members believe that plastic, like any other resource, should be re-used and recycled when possible, and disposed of responsibly when it is not. It’s crucial for governments to install greater recycling infrastructure and promote programmes that encourage consumers to mind the four ‘R’s’ – reduce, reuse, recycle and recover,” he said.
The GPCA recently launched a range of initiatives to raise awareness of responsible waste management. These programmes include initiating and implementing the ‘Clean Up the Gulf’ campaign, which saw over 2,500 people participate in clean-up activities at six places in the Gulf: Abu Dhabi and Dubai, along with Riyadh, Al Jubail and Rabigh in Saudi Arabia and in Kuwait.
In the UAE, GPCA has also organised a series of workshops in partnership with INJAZ to promote recycling among students and to raise awareness of responsible waste management practices and the ‘four Rs.’
“The answer to our littering problem lies in changing behaviour. GPCA encourages the use of thicker-gauge, reusable plastic bags, instead of the traditional lightweight, disposable ones we grab at the supermarket check-out,” said Dr. Sadoun. “This makes it easier to re-use and recycle.”
The recommendation came on the eve of the GPCA’s fourth annual PlastCon conference, which will run from for three days from Monday until Wednesday.
The event aims at fostering innovation and creating greater value in the Gulf plastics industry.
This year’s GPCA PlastCon will also feature the third edition of the Plastics Innovation Awards, where trophies will be awarded to key industry players for excellence and ideas in plastics conversion, in addition to a special award for student talent in plastics to encourage future generations and inspire innovations in plastics. The winners will be announced on April 8.