Over 1,000 private sector companies are taking part in the Dubai Can initiative that was launched last week, a top official has said.
Talking to Khaleej Times in an exclusive interview, Yousuf Lootah, executive director, Development and Investments of Dubai’s Department of Economy and Tourism, said the initiative has received an “overwhelming response from both public and private partners”.
Dubai Can encourages residents and visitors to ditch single-use plastic water bottles and, instead, shift to refillable ones. Over 30 water public stations have been set up across Dubai, with plans to increase them to 50 soon.
The initiative aims at changing people’s habits to become more environmentally conscious, Lootah added. It will help reduce the intake of micro-plastics into “our bodies”.
“We drink 450 bottles of water ever year on average. Imagine how many plastic bottles we will save if we just shift to refillable ones,” said Lootah.
Lootah shared some shocking statistics which are a cry for change:
• 4 billion plastic bottles consumed in the UAE per year.
• 8.3 billion tonnes of plastic produced in UAE in 2019.
• 91% of plastic doesn’t get recycled.
• An average UAE resident uses 450 plastic water bottles annually.
• 450-500 years: Time it takes to dissolve a plastic bottle.
How Dubai Can was born
Lootah said the programme stemmed from the vision of Dubai Crown Prince Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.
“His Highness opted that we … shift consumer behaviour. As people living here, we have a responsibility towards our city.”
Authorities gathered sustainability thought leaders from different companies and industries to make Dubai Can a “private and public discussion”.
“It's our belief that when new innovation needs to be implemented, we have to do it with everybody on the table. We got our partners from Majid Al Futtain Group, Accor and wider government agencies, just to name a few. And all of them came together and they were very happy to be part of this,” said Lootah.
“We needed to do two things. One, we needed to make the fountains available for people to drink water for free. And the second part was to educate people to value the change. What does the initiative mean? How can they change? It's a small change, but has a huge impact. So, we're driving those messages, and everybody could be a champion, everybody could make a change,” added Lootah.
Target: Behaviour change
Statistically speaking, there are no specific targets to achieve with the initiative.
“We intentionally left these numbers out because we want people to aspire to achieve the most. Our machines are IoT-enabled, we are tracking the consumption, we are going to be working closely with the Dubai Municipality as well as they build up towards their waste management strategy in the next 10 years, where they are planning to cut down landfill waste,” Lootah said.
Authorities in Dubai are “working very hard” to reduce the negative impact of plastic in general. “Basically, it is a contributor to cancer and other diseases. Plastics kill over a million sea creatures every year. By 2050, some studies note that there will be more plastic in the oceans than fish.”
How a small change helped reduce water budget by 50%
Lootah said his department reduced annual water consumption budget by 50 per cent.
“We've installed water filters and fountains … Everybody started carrying refillable bottles, and we saved 50 per cent in terms of plastic bottles.
“If you look it up on the Internet, you will find that in the plastic bottles that you buy for Dh2 or Dh1, the actual water costs no more than 10 fils. So, from that perspective, you get to feel better, save the environment and save your money,” Lootah added.
Private companies all for green living
The official said that the response from corporates has been “very positive”.
“Jebel Ali hotel, for example, has converted and installed a refill plant that furnishes glass bottle water to their guests inside the rooms and restaurants. So there is no more plastic generation there.
“Basically, they are saving thousands and thousands of bottles from going to the garbage every day. That's going across a lot of hotels. And the next phase on that is for people to ask for it … When people demand, the supply will shift.”
Say no to plastic
The major incentive to take part in the drive is “self-gratification of achieving something for the common good”.
“Being a champion for Dubai is something more important than any cash to be honest. That's my belief. Because it's a small change that basically helps yourself.”
He highlighted an everyday example of the danger of plastics.
“Sometimes, you find a bottle of water you had left in your car … The taste is different, isn’t it? That's the effect of plastic contamination. And there are a lot of proven medical studies that have shed light on the negative side effects of plastic contamination in our bodies.”
The keyword is ‘choice’
Lootah clarified that Dubai is not banning plastic bottles.
“That's not the mission here. We want to offer the consumer the choice. And to offer the consumer the choice, we have placed the three double-filter, chilled contactless fountains at 30 locations, and we're going to go up to 50 locations very soon,” he said.
A lot of hotels will be taking part in the initiative, helping tourists get resuable bottles they can use to get free water.
“I believe tourists will find it quite a convenient conversion. Of course, if they want to drink water from a certain brand, it’ll continue to be available. So, it's a personal choice,” he said.
Striking the economy-environment balance
When asked how Dubai will mitigate the economic impact of the initiative on companies that produce plastic bottles, Lootah said:
“We are very confident that the plastic industry will be motivated to adopt more innovative solutions … that improve the biodegradability of their products. We are sure that they will find other opportunities to supply and flourish and even grow stronger and be more environmentally responsible.”
He pointed out that like anything in the world, “economic shifts happen, supply and demand shift over time”.
News Source: Khaleej Times