UAE finalizes systems in making plastic bags biodegradable by 2013
The UAE has finalized the systems and processes in making plastic bags in the country biodegradable over the next two years.
All providers and suppliers of Oxo-Biodegradable additives – ingredients that will enable plastic bags to degrade quickly – need to be verified and approved by ESMA before they can deal with plastic manufacturers and traders, according to a senior government official.
This is in line with the decision of Emirates Authority for Standardization and Metrology (ESMA), supported by the UAE Ministry of Environment and Water, to make all plastic bags produced in the UAE biodegradable by 2013.
Eng. Mohammad SalehBadri, Acting Director General, ESMA, said: “All the plastic bags used in the UAE must be biodegradable from 2013 so all the supermarkets, shops and stores, plastic manufacturers and suppliers, and all the people using them should be made aware of this regulation and practice it.
“We have now put a system on how to do this. We're currently coordinating with the providers of plastics, including the manufacturers and the traders, informing them that they need to be registered with and verified by ESMA. We have started the dialogue with them and we’re conducting a series of education sessions where we explain the systems and processes they have to go through.”
To date, three suppliers of these granular additives have been approved by ESMA – Wells Plastics Limited for the manufacturing of Reverte Oxo-Biodegradable additives; Symphony Environmental Limited for the manufacturing of d2w Oxo-Biodegradable additives; and Bin Hilal Enterprises for the manufacturing of Willow Ridge Oxo-Biodegradable additives.
It is estimated that there are more than 100 manufacturers and suppliers of Bio or Oxo-Biodegradable additives in the UAE. About 95 per cent of the plastic bags used in UAE are manufactured in the country and only 5 per cent is imported from outside.
The verification aims to ensure that the process of degradation will not harm the people and environment. ESMA’s process of verification assures that the manufacturers fully comply with the requirements set by the Technical Regulation issued by UAE cabinet.
A team of experts shall conduct an audit on the entire process from the use of raw material till the production of plastic bags. The whole chain needs the verification and approval of ESMA.
All plastics that are biodegradable will bear a “Mark of Conformity” or a logo that shows they meet the government standards. The logo has been approved by ESMA’s Board of Director, chaired by Rashid Ahmed Bin Fahad, also Minister of Environment and Water.
Plastic bags pose danger to the environment because some chemicals in the material are toxic and take thousand years to break down. The toxic substance enters the food chain by seeping into the soil during its breakdown process, and causes a threat to animals and birds where they may either ingest or choke to death by plastic wraps.
Half the camel deaths each year in the UAE are due to camels ingesting plastic bags, according to a study by the Ministry of Environment and Water.
Globally, the detrimental effects of plastics in the environment have been well-documented. The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) estimated in 2006 that every square mile of ocean contains 46,000 pieces of floating plastic and that 70 per cent to 80 per cent of reported marine debris worldwide is plastic.
A UNEP study shows that plastic debris causes the deaths of more than a million seabirds every year, as well as more than 100,000 marine mammals.
In 1992 the U.S. alone produced 60 billion pounds of thermoplastic. That number doubled to 120 billion per year. Every year some 5.5 quadrillion (5.5x1015) plastic pellets—about 250 billion pounds of them—are produced worldwide for use in the manufacture of plastic products.
The UAE and the GCC are on the forefront of countries preserving the environment, and their adherence to environment measures also enhances their global competitive edge.
Under the UAE Technical Regulation 5009: 2009 – Standard and Specification for Ox biodegradation of Plastic Bags and other disposable Plastic Objects, Oxo-Biodegradable additives have to be added during the manufacturing stage of the plastic bags to speed up the degradation process of these plastics.
According to a study conducted by the Ministry of Environment and Water, nearly 12 billion plastic bags are used a year in the UAE. In Abu Dhabi, plastic makes up 19 per cent of domestic waste in the city, according to the Centre for Waste Management.
The UAE launched a nation-wide campaign in October 2009 to reduce non-biodegradable plastic bags in four phases, after a survey conducted by the Ministry of Environment and Water showed that plastic bags and other plastic material added to 10.9 per cent of the total amount of household waste a year.
The four phases involved education and awareness at the public and academic levels, finding alternatives to plastic bags and setting of legalities by authorities. The final phase involves the actual move to reduce and prevent the manufacture of plastic bags by year 2013.