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4 billion plastic bottles are consumed annually in the United Arab Emirates and 40% of all plastic in the country is single-use. This can be devastating for local wildlife, from sea turtles to camels.
To drive change and consumer habits, Dubai has stepped up its commitment towards a more sustainable future, through the launch of ‘Dubai Can’. The move looks to reduce the city’s reliance on single-use plastic bottles, and in its initial stage, encourages residents and tourists to use reusable water bottles across 40 brand new water refill stations around the city.
Yousuf Lootah, Executive Director of Tourism Development and Investments at Dubai’s Department of Economy and Tourism, and Vice Chairman of Dubai Sustainable Tourism, told Euronews: “The idea came from His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammad bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Crown Prince of Dubai, and Chairman of the Executive Council of Dubai… [an idea that was] built with the private sector… focusing on eliminating plastic bottles from our lives.”
Air to Water Technology
Yousuf Lootah revealed the initiative embraces the latest in advanced water technology, by using drinking water from air. He noted, “Air to water as a technology, in general, has been around for many years… and the technology got to the point where it became quite efficient to convert humidity in the air and condense it into water. We have a couple being implemented by our partners in different locations.”
Over 500 public and private sector companies have partnered with the Dubai-based campaign, with many sponsoring their own water fountains. These include international hotel groups such as Accor, who are also making big changes internally.
Marc Descrozaille the Chief Operating Officer for the IMEA region at Accor told Euronews: “[The Dubai Can] coincided with our commitments on a global level to completely reduce and stop single-use plastic in all our hotels in the world… and it is something which also is very, very important for employees here. So, yeah, it's a great partnership.”
Yousuf Lootah highlighted Dubai as a base for partnerships with companies in green energy. He revealed, “There are companies that are introducing new formulas to convert the traditional plastics into real biodegradable plastic and not microplastics. So there is plenty of global movement on that. We're seeing a lot of companies in green energy, in green technology, cleantech and agritech, looking at Dubai to be the base for their growth doors, their talent to connect with the world.”
Another entity looking to make a difference is a free, recyclable, waste collection app called RECAPP by Veolia. Along with a local partner, the group is recycling plastic PET bottles into fabric fibre, used to fill pillows. The app also uses an incentive reward system to help encourage the community to recycle more.
Jérôme Viricel, the General Manager of RECAPP by Veolia ME told Euronews, “By providing this reward system we encourage the population [and] we want to be able to educate people as well. That's why we are using a different channel of communication in order to spread more, [and] giving tips in terms of recycling. This is also why we decided to implement a school program with a recycling module for students that we started one month ago.”
Plastic Free Future
In another sustainability move, Dubai retail across the city will start charging customers for single-use plastic bags from the 1st of July, with the ambition of a total ban within 2 years.
Youself Lootah revealed the next phase will see increased collaboration. He stated, “There is a lot that we are going to be working on in collaboration with other government entities, with the private sector and the consumers, to improve the carbon efficiency or the carbon impact of all of the activities that are happening in Dubai, whether it's from the tourism sector or the general economic sectors.”