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Retailers point up savings as Dubai bans plastic bags

Recyclable plastics at a sorting facility in Dubai. The city banned single-use bags on January 1 Reuters/Rula Rouhana
Recyclable plastics at a sorting facility in Dubai. The city banned single-use bags on January 1
  • Customers set to benefit
  • Ban to include stirrers and straws
  • Rubbish bags not included

Supermarket operators have told AGBI that Dubai’s ban on single-use plastic bags is an opportunity to cut costs – and pass on savings to customers. 

The emirate’s prohibition on the import, production and circulation of single-use plastic shopping bags came into force on January 1, in an attempt to reduce waste and pollution.

The Gulf states generate more than 90 million tons of solid waste every year, including 10 million tons of plastic, according to a 2020 study by consultancy Strategy&. Only a small fraction is reused or recovered, although recycling offers big commercial opportunities, the report found.

Supermarket chain Spinneys phased out single-use plastic bags in 2022, well ahead of Dubai’s ban. 

“In this time, we have been able to save on the purchasing and issuing of single-use plastic bags free of charge to customers,” said Warwick Gird, general manager, marketing, at the chain.

“We are passing on a saving to our customers.”

Spinneys provided incentives for sustainable practices by offering a 25-fils rebate to customers who use reusable bags, Gird said. 

The retail chain also introduced recyclable bags made from 100 percent recycled material, priced at AED1, with a similar rebate for their reuse.

Dr Mohamed Althaf, director at retail conglomerate Lulu Group International, said packaging contributed 20 to 30 percent of the cost of food and consumer products.

“If somebody takes away that [cost], there’s money to be made,” he told AGBI

“That’s a saving I can pass to my customer.”

Lulu has also introduced refill stations for products such as pulses at its shops, and reverse vending machines that accept plastic bottles in exchange for rewards. 

The retailer, which has its headquarters in Abu Dhabi, has collected 4 million plastic bottles in eight months.

Dubai’s ban will be extended in 2025 to other single-use plastic products such as stirrers and straws. By 2026, it will apply to plastic plates, food containers and beverage cups. 

Bin bags and single-use thin films for packaging fresh meat, vegetables and fruits are exempt.

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