Friday, May 13, 2016

Going Plastic Free In UAE

Going plastic free is not as easy to implement when we are so trapped in 'Use and Throw' culture. We use so many different forms of plastic during our daily life, that sometimes we don't even give thought to the larger picture of plastic pollution worldwide.

Do you even know that UAE has one of the highest consumption of bottled water per capita in the world? So it's no surprise when you see plastic bottles and bags dumped in remote desert or in mangrove. Generally 80% of plastic bottles are not even recycled. It can take upto 1000 years for plastic to degrade. One of the biggest threat to marine environment is due to plastic ending up in oceans. The waste generated by us either deliberately or accidentally ends up in rivers, waterways, coasts, floats in seas and finally ends up in ocean gyre. Great Pacific garbage patch in north pacific ocean is one such example.

Worst thing is plastic in ocean breaks down into small particles. Marine life without knowing what it is, eat it and when we eat fish and salt we also end up eating it. So plastic waste created by us is by now present in our bodies too.

In UAE's wild life, Hawksbill turtle, which is listed on IUCN's critically endangered species eat plastic bags floating in oceans, as those bags look like jellyfish! Plastic bags are one of the biggest threat to them.

Recycling is not the solution

Recycling plastic waste is not a solution as it has limitations. High energy use, toxicity and less possibility of reuse of recycled plastic these are the factors which make recycling plastic ineffective. We need to stop plastic waste at the source. Now a days innovative materials are discovered which are manufactured using organic raw materials and can be used as flexibly as plastic and are biodegradable. So plastic can be replaced by these Eco friendly biopolymer alternatives. We just need to stop using plastic and reduce the demand, so that plastic manufacturing will go down. We need to get over the cradle to grave materials like plastic! Hope these new biopolymer materials by companies like Ecovative, Earth Vision will be available in UAE soon.


Last week, when I was invited to the launch of Drop It campaign by Goumbook at Sofitel Dubai Downtown, I promptly said yes. Green Living in Dubai is more than happy to support this campaign which aims to reduce use of plastic bottles. Tatiana, co founder of Goumbook drew attention to the fact that bottled water is harmful for us to consume. The water kept longer time in plastic container get contaminated and become toxic. The campaign promotes eliminating plastic bottled water by installing a filter for tap water at your home or office. The campaign is launched under the patronage of H.H. Sheikh Abdul Aziz Al Nuaimi a.k.a. The Green Sheikh. While speaking at the launch H.H. pointed 'The change should start from us first, we need to change our habits and practice it!' It was inspiring when The Green Sheikh not just said it, but carried his own sustainable reusable water bottle to the event!
With H.H. Sheikh Abdul Aziz Al Nuaimi a.k.a. The Green Sheikh
Some other shocking facts about bottled water:
Price of bottled water is upto 1000 times the cost of tap water. The production of water bottles use 17 million barrels of oil a year and it takes three times water to make the bottle.

I would like to invite all my readers to take part in this campaign and say no to plastic (not just plastic bottles, but any form of plastic). If you are a regular reader, you know how much I love to talk about Eco-friendly reusable bags. But I would like to share with you, what are other ways I avoid using plastic in most of the forms.

Replace disposable plastic items 

1. Plastic bags
2. Plastic bottles
3. Foam or plastic plates, cups, cutlery and food containers
4. Plastic packaging material
5. Food or toiletries packed in plastic containers

If you look into your garbage bin, these are primary plastic waste. But most of these things you can stop using. This is just a quick guide on reducing plastic waste, specially when we are on the go or go outdoors.

1. No Plastic bags! I always keep big cotton or jute bags in car for grocery shopping. I love to flaunt my Eco friendly bags. Most times, I say no to plastic bags in almost all shops. What ever plastic or paper bags end up in my house, I keep them and use for trash.

My Plastic Alternatives
2. Drop Plastic bottles. I prefer carrying my water in glass or steel bottle, have stopped buying BPA free PET bottles. Even BPA free plastic is still plastic! Next step is I am going to ask for juices and coffee in my bottle or thermal cup, let's see how it works here.

3. While going outdoors, we have stopped using plastic/foam disposable items. Instead I use stainless steel cups, plates and cutlery. If needed I buy paper items.

4. Packaging Material. I haven't found a way to avoid packaging material in UAE, when we are buying new things, But I don't throw them try to reuse them for gift packing or craft or other uses.

5. Unfortunately there are so many things in our everyday use come in plastic packaging in UAE. We need a better system of refilling things which we need on regular basis, to avoid plastic containers.
My next initiative on the individual level is going to be to carry my own empty steel or glass container when going out. This way, if I order take away from any restaurant, I will be using alternatives to plastic. Watch this space for blog updates on the convenience of these initiatives.

For bottled water, may be Dubai municipality can start designing and installing paid drinking water fountains for EXPO 2020. Otherwise all those people coming from across the world will be drinking bottled water, increasing so much load on waste disposal system. Just discussing few suggestions.

Till we see some drastic steps at big level, we can just say no to plastic in our life! 


Unknown said...

Such a great initiative!

Unknown said...

Your blog is such a great Insipiration Amruta. Many a times we place convenience above sustainability! But blogs like yours are doing a great work in spreading the message. We may not be able to quit using plastic in a day. But your steps are great. We could all begin by at least following one of those steps and such small steps by each of us could make a huge difference!!

Tarana Khan said...

This is a great campaign, hope it catches on.

Amruta Kshemkalyani- Tavkar said...

Thank you Bilna for your lovely words! Absolutely small changes in our life can have positive huge impact on plastic pollution issue. Thank you Tarana & Mummy on my mind! Please go ahead and share these simple tips with your friends and family! We all can do something to reduce plastic waste!

ginger and scotch said...

We've greatly reduced our use of small plastic bottles but having a hard time with the idea of not having a 5Gallon water cooler in the house :(

Unknown said...

There's so much water bottle wastage here. Love your initiative ideas

Unknown said...

Goodness I am guilty of using so many of the things you mentioned. I thought I had cut back a lot but living here has made me lazy, there's so much more we can all do!! #uaemombloggers

Amruta Kshemkalyani- Tavkar said...

Thanks Laura!
Ginger, I know! But I think people get used to it slowly!
Baby Globetrotters, I am glad this post worked as reminder for you! :)