Is the end in sight for plastic bags in UAE supermarkets?

Major retail chains are mulling charging customers for plastic bags to decrease their use
Is the end in sight for plastic bags in UAE supermarkets?
By Lubna Hamdan
Wed 03 Jul 2019 03:13 PM

Major grocery chains across the UAE are moving closer towards eliminating the use of plastic bags, and replacing them with reusable bags.

In celebration of International Plastic Bag Free Day 2019, French giant Carrefour, which is operated in the UAE by Majid Al Futtaim, is giving customers who bring their own reusable bags to any of the 31 hypermarkets a foldable canvas bag or juco bag from its ‘Connecting with Nature’ range, which retail at AED9 ($2.45) and AED10 respectively.

Carrefour's outlet at Mall of the Emirates is also offering customers free monogramming upon the purchase of a reusable foldable canvas bag on Wednesday.

Carrefour, which became the first retailer in the UAE to sell reusable shopping bags in 2007, said similar initiatives which ran in the past year have seen a near ten-fold increase in the number of customers buying reusable bags.

The French chain has never charged for plastic bags in the UAE. However, Philippe Peguilhan, Country Manager of Carrefour UAE, told Arabian Business: “For now, we can’t say for certain whether the practice would work… Our goal is to use every opportunity including International Plastic Bag Free Day to educate customers the importance of opting for more sustainable alternatives.”

UK supermarket chain Waitrose, which charges for plastic bags in the UK, in line with regulatory requirements, claims to have been the first supermarket in the UAE to run a trial in which it charged customers for plastic bags.

The three-month trial saw a reduction in single-use plastic bags, resulting in Waitrose considering rolling out this initiative to all of its stores, Morne Fourie, GM Marketing Waitrose UAE, told Arabian Business.

Waitrose offers a variety of reusable bags in all of its UAE stores, as well as a bag exchange programme where customers can deposit their bags for other shoppers to use, Fourie added.

“Feedback from customers on both initiatives has been really positive, with many shoppers bringing in and utilising the reusable and or exchanged bags instead of the plastic bags… We know the impact of plastics on our environment is a serious concern for both Partners and our customers. That’s why we are looking at ways to be less wasteful and more respectful of our planet as a whole,” he said.

Similarly, Middle East supermarket chain Spinneys, which also offers reusable bags, is considering charging customers for plastic bags in order to decrease their use. It had run a small scale trial in Abu Dhabi in which it charged for plastic bags, and a spokesperson said the results “indicated that the practice would work with our customers”.

Many of its shoppers already bring in and utilise reusable bags instead of plastic bags, the spokesperson said.

The introduction of 10 pence charge (46 fils) saw an 80 percent reduction in plastic bag usage – equivalent to 1.5 billion bags.

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