Dubai Airports readies for ban on single-use plastics

• Research carried out by the airport operator shows only 5% of travellers from the UAE manage to completely avoid plastic

• Coffee giant Costa backs initiative by launching new fully-sustainable coffee cup

• McDonald’s is replacing a total of 5,608,740 items with recyclable materials at Dubai’s two airports DXB and DWC

Change is coming to the world of air travel as the self-imposed deadline looms for a ban on all single-use plastics at the world’s busiest international airport, Dubai International (DXB). Announced by operator, Dubai Airports, earlier this year, Dubai’s two airports (DXB and DWC) will soon be free of single-use plastics in a bid to manage environmental impact.

Since the announcement of the pledge in June 2019, they have been working closely with more than 250 of its concession and hospitality partners to fulfill the promise by the beginning of the new year, says Dubai Airports. With 90 million passengers passing through Dubai’s two airports – DXB and DWC – every year, consuming tens of thousands of plastic items from straws to water bottles to coffee lids daily, the plastic-free initiative has presented some serious challenges for those involved.

“This pledge is another step on a long journey to becoming a more environmentally responsible airport. Along with our partners, including global brands such as McDonald’s, Costa Coffee and Starbucks, we are committed to not only removing single-use plastics but in their place providing appropriate and importantly sustainable alternatives,” says Eugene Barry, EVP Commercial at Dubai Airports.

The phased approach will see plastic cutlery, drinking straws, take-away food packaging and polythene bags removed from cafés, restaurants and shops at the world’s busiest international airport from January 1, 2020. During the next twelve months additional products will be replaced both in customer spaces and behind the scenes.

“Among the challenges faced, the biggest is sourcing alternatives for plastic bottles, one of the most frequently used and discarded pieces of single-use plastics. As we work to reduce and ultimately eliminate plastics from our airports, we are increasing our recycling facilities in the customer spaces and a new partnership that will allow us to properly dispose of thousands of tonnes of single-use plastic, each year,” Barry continued.

Survey Results

The additional recycling points will also support the management in dealing with the tens of thousands of bottles and waste brought into the airport daily, something the operator Dubai Airports’ expects will also decrease as people become more conscious of their usage.

Results from a specially commissioned survey into the recycling habits of travellers showed an increased awareness, both around personal usage of plastic products and recycling, at home and while travelling, as per the press release.

• In the UAE, over half (52%) of the respondents claim to carry a reusable water bottle while travelling.

• 49% would choose to dine in an airport restaurant to avoid plastic packaging that comes with takeout food options.

• Almost a third (32%) of respondents refuse to buy items at the airport containing nonrecyclable materials.

• Importantly, 92% of respondents state that airports should be more vocal about what steps they are taking to recycle waste.

Continuing the journey

Moving forward through 2020, significantly more single-use plastic products will be replaced throughout the two airports by concession and hospitality partners. Notable among them is McDonald’s who will be replacing a total of 5,608,740 items with recyclable materials at Dubai’s two airports DXB and DWC.

Also, Costa Coffee, which has committed to replacing its plastic-lined cups with a 100% renewable, plant-based “smart” cup. Costa uses over 2.6 million cups a year in Dubai’s airports alone, so a significant impact will be made, said the operator. This will be shortly by the introduction of a coffee cup lid made entirely from wood and paper fibre instead of single-use plastic.