"We'll have the draft policy on single-use plastics by the beginning of 2020. We're aiming for a phenomenal reduction in single-use plastic consumption by 2021," said Dr Shaikha Al Dhaheri, Secretary-General of the Environment Agency-Abu Dhabi (EAD) without specific figures.
"Not only do we join a global effort to reduce the impact of single-use material, but we also want to show leadership, as a government and as an emirate, as responsible plastics producers and consumers," she said.
She said in an interview on the sidelines of the annual UAE government meetings in Abu Dhabi that the strategy will include an implementation plan and the necessary tools and opportunities to be enforced by 2021.
Once they are thrown away or recycled, single-use plastics are used. Plastics discarded as waste affect human health and the environment in nature, but their real danger lies in being resistant to microbial degradation and containing compounds of dioxin that can cause cancer.
The UN has called for international action to combat plastic pollution, saying that 400 million tons of plastics are manufactured annually, of which 36 per cent are meant for single use.
Al Dhaheri said that, before the measures are implemented, people and businesses will get nearly a year to get ready and replace single-use items with clear alternatives with sustainable reusable products.
"The policy will target items such as bags, bottles and cutlery through various measures to reduce their consumption and ensure recycling recovery," she explained.
"We also take into account the social and economic effects. Customers, as well as private sector companies, will also have time to change their production line and use alternatives to single-use packaging."
The EAD must ensure the supply of sustainable options on the market, the official added. "We must ensure that people do not choose substitutes that are more dangerous than single-use plastic." She also said that EAD looked at the studies conducted in the U.S., Australia, and some neighbouring countries about their views with single-use plastic eradication. "More harmful alternatives replaced single-use plastic in some places. Alternatives should be in supporting multiple-use items and not shifting to non-plastic single-use items."
The EAD will administer awareness campaigns to make the objective of reducing single-use plastic consumption a success for consumers and businesses.
"We conducted a survey among the public earlier this year, and 80% of respondents favoured eradicating single-use plastic bags, while 99% considered single-use plastic a priority issue to be addressed," Al Dhaheri said.
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