In a regional first, the UAE’s capital emirate, Abu Dhabi, is eliminating single-use plastics over the next two years, with the aim of becoming completely free of plastic bags - and to have limited the circulation of other single-use plastics - by the end of 2021.

The policy, implemented by the Environment Agency of Abu Dhabi (EAD), specifically targets plastic bags, which are heavily used in the emirate. 11 billion of them are used annually, according to a recent report, which is higher than the global average - as well as plastic bottles, beverage cups and lids, plastic cutleries, straws and food containers.

Dr Shaikha Salem Al Dhaheri, Secretary General of the EAD, said: “The launch of the single-use plastics policy reflects our steadfast commitment towards transitioning to a more sustainable economy that seeks to minimise waste and protect vital ecosystems in our environment."

They’re rolling out the policy first via charges for people who use plastic bags before banning them completely within two years.

They will also introduce a bottle-return scheme, which compensates whoever recycles a plastic bottle. 

The policy was developed in line with international standards of sustainability, and was drafted in co-operation with other government bodies, companies and retailers, and the Department of Economic Development.

Abu Dhabi is not the first city in the Arab world to introduce a plastic-free policy; Egypt’s Red Sea governorate banned single-use plastics last year. However, the capital emirate’s policy plan is the first of its kind in the region to happen at this large scale.