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African answer to containing menace plastic bags

Dubai: The South African Government imposed a blanket ban on all plastic bags thinner than 30 microns in 2003.

The thickness of a human hair is 50 microns.

The plastic bag industry was given a year to phase out thin plastic bags and to replace them with thicker ones.

The South African Government collects a small environmental levy per shopping bag. The thicker plastic bags are more expensive to make, therefore it became too costly for retailers to give them away for free.

Shoppers were encouraged to re-use bags or use alternatives. Many people now use cloth or paper bags.

Taxes on durable bags helped to provide revenue for plastic bag recycling companies.

The Congress of South African Trade Unions estimated that the ban caused 3,800 workers in the plastic bag industry to lose their jobs.

However, many new jobs were created in recycling industries and other jobs in plastic manufacturing and the retail sectors were retained.

Greener path to the shop

Dubai: Her children will never use a plastic bag. German expatriate mother Rita Amer has made this conscious decision.

It is a tough call in an age where polyethylene bags are as ubiquitous as traffic cones. Amer said: "My children have started using plastic drinking bottles since we moved to the UAE a year ago from Germany, but I will never allow them to use a plastic bag."

Her children Faras, 11, and Hana, 13, are not complaining. Their mother has not used a plastic bag for over three decades.


This was partly due to her life in Germany where she grew up at a time when the country was going through a wave of change.

"Germany was part of the eco-awareness phase in the 1970s. That helped me grow up with all such 'green' practices like using solar panels at home and barely using plastic bags," she said.

She recently switched from her reusable bags to a plastic box. "I've been carrying a reusable bag ever since I can remember. The plastic box is also very practical as it doesn't weigh much and can hold many things. Plus, it's easier to carry," she said.

She packs her groceries directly into the box, which resembles a laundry basket. Filled with her regular groceries, the box is a unique sight in supermarket isles as other residents continue to struggle with plastic.

Amer said supermarket staff has been more than helpful with this unique habit, once they found out the reason behind it.

"I am delighted to see that Gulf News' 'No to Plastic Bags' campaign is gaining momentum. For me using plastic bags for shopping is a sign of ignorance and bringing my own box for my shopping is very natural to me."

She also ensures her family's carbon footprint is minimal. With a compost pit at home, her garden is never out of much needed fertiliser. She also makes sure appliances are switched off when not in use and the air-conditioning is turned on only late into summer.

Amer understands the importance of picking up these habits early in life, and she makes sure she passes them on to her son and daughter.

Dubai Municipality ends free ride

Dubai: Free distribution of bio-degradable garbage bags for residents by the Dubai Municipality will stop on May 31.

"The step is being taken by the civic body to curb the use of plastic bags by residents. They will now be required to purchase their plastic bags from supermarkets," said an official from the waste management department at Dubai Municipality.

"We have been distributing leaflets to inform residents of the move when they visit our 18 branches to pick up their free bags," said the official.

The civic body has been distributing free garbage bags for 30 years.

The official said the municipality is very keen to minimise and gradually halt the use of plastic bags as part of their environmental protection campaign.

On whether supermarkets would limit the number of garbage bags that an individual can purchase, the official said: "No, residents can buy as many as they want, but they will have to spend money, and that will serve as a deterrent. We would like residents to go for eco-friendly bags."

Gulf News has received an overwhelming response from its readers in its ongoing "No to Plastic Bags" campaign.

Many felt strongly that more needed to be done by private organisations and the civic body to spread awareness.

Readers have even suggested that every household and business be provided with recycling bins for bottles, glass, packaging and bags. There should be an education campaign to teach residents how to responsibly dispose of plastic bags.

"The municipality has collaborated with the private sector in the campaign against the use of plastic but, having said that, I would like to say that we also focus on recycling, including plastic, cans and paper.

There are also a number of private companies that are actively involved in recycling. These companies have people going around the city collecting cans, plastics and paper from the streets," said the official. He said there is a need to pay attention to household waste. He said recycling of organic waste should be encouraged as it comprises 40 per cent of total waste.

Fujairah tackles waste management

Fujairah: His Highness Shaikh Hamad Bin Mohammad Al Sharqi, UAE Supreme Council member and ruler of Fujairah has issued a law setting up a directorate for medical waste management.

The law empowers the Fujairah Municipality to follow up the enactment of the law.

Law No.1 (2008) regarding protection of environment and handling of medical waste, lays down rules for the treatment and safe disposal of all types of medical waste abiding by the global standards.

All institutions in the public and private sectors performing medical works are bound by the rules of the law.

The law prohibits disposal of medical waste in the trash containers placed by the municipality or handing them over to any unlicensed incineration stations inside or outside the emirate.

It also stipulates rules for taking precautions when handling medical waste as not to pollute the environment or pose hazard to public health.

Khalifa says UAE should be on par with the West

Abu Dhabi: President His Highness Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan on Saturday viewed the models of the development project of Sowwah Island in the presence of General Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed forces.

Urban environment

The Sowwah Island will provide Abu Dhabi with a vibrant 24-hour urban environment comprising 105 hectares of commercial, residential and retail components.

Supported by an extensive network of 13 bridges, public transport links and pedestrian facilities, the Sowwah Island will provide residents and visitors with convenient access to the mainland and surrounding islands of Abu Dhabi.

The island will have a prestigious commercial development featuring the distinctive new headquarters of the Abu Dhabi securities exchange, surrounded by 570,000 square meters of office, hotel and retail amenities.

Sowwah Island will also be home of the first Cleveland clinic in the Middle East bringing a state-of-the-art healthcare facility to the people of the UAE.

The island will enjoy an abundance of natural features from spectacular views to grand open spaces ideal for establishing a unique balance between vibrant business sites and the tranquil setting of residential neighborhoods.


Thousands join environmental drive

THE final field trip of the season in connection with the Flower Each Spring drive is to be organised next Saturday.
So far, there have been 14 trips to Shahaniya to learn about Al-Salem, the plant chosen for promotion this year. Nearly 4,000 students, teachers and parents took part in these trips, conducted every Saturday. More than 40 schools participated in the campaign.
The annual environmental campaign is held under the patronage of HH Sheikha Mozah Nasser al-Misnad. This is the 10th year of the campaign, spearheaded by Friends of Environment Centre and its chairman Dr Saif al-Hajari.

Salem or Acacia ehrenber giana is a much branched tall shrub with a green or brown, smooth, shining, peeling bark. It has thorns which are 4-6cm long, white, straight set out in axillary pairs, longer than the adjacent leaves.

Salem is found in the Arabian Peninsula. Besides, the plant is also found in North Sahel and the Southern and Central Sahara, and East Africa.
Besides field trips, there were also “festivals” at malls and public parks. These were held at Hayat Plaza, Al-Dousri Farm, City Center, Rumaillah Park, Landmark, The Mall, the zoo and Dahl al-Hamam. The next one is planned for the Villagio.
Though the field trips end on May 17, various competitions in connection with the plant would continue until November 1, said Adil Tijani A Rahman, manager of Friends of Environment Centre.

There are research competitions in two categories – those aged 12 to 18 years and 18 and above; as also poetry and story writing competitions also for the same age groups.
Besides, there are also competitions in painting, photography, designing and models for youth and adults. Painting is open to children under 12 also.
In addition, there are also competitions for schools, clubs and youth centres in these categories.

Research reports, stories and poems may be written in either Arabic or English. The research, which may be done jointly, should be previously unpublished.
An individual is allowed to submit only one entry. These must be submitted before November 1. Results will be announced at a valedictory ceremony to be held towards the end of the year, where the winners will be given certificates and prizes.
The entries should be submitted at the Friends of Environment Centre (P O Box 1822). For details call 4874731.

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9 May 2008

Food crisis, Myanmar feature in Assembly President’s talks with Turkish officials

9 May - General Assembly President Srgjan Kerim is wrapping up his official visit to Turkey, where he discussed issues such as the global food crisis, the recent tragedy in Myanmar and United Nations reform with the country’s officials.

As Mr. Kerim and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan discussed the global food crisis, the President noted that “this is an issue where articulate and well coordinated action on the part of all Member States of the United Nations is necessary.”

He said he expected the international Task Force set up by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon last week to tackle the global rise in food prices “to make an immediate assessment of the scope and nature of the problem of the crisis and as soon as we have that assessment, the General Assembly can make an evaluation about what should be done and how it can be engaged.”

The Task Force, which brings together the heads of key UN agencies, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and experts from the around the globe, will hold its first meeting in New York next Monday.

In addition, the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council has announced it will hold a special session on the food crisis on 23 May.

Mr. Kerim told Prime Minister Erdogan that he would support convening a special session of the Assembly, as the solution to the crisis had to be on a political level. He also called for world leaders to give their full support to the UN high-level meeting on the issue to be convened from 3 to 5 June in Rome.

Prime Minister Erdogan agreed that any response to the food crisis should be within the framework of the UN.

The situation in Myanmar, where an estimated 1.5 million people are in need of humanitarian aid following last weekend’s deadly cyclone, was also discussed. The President reiterated the urgency with which the authorities in Myanmar should fully cooperate with the international community, particularly the UN.

The President and the Prime Minister also discussed current Assembly priorities including UN reform, a topic that also featured in Mr. Kerim’s talks with President Abdullah Gul. The Turkish leader supported the idea of the intermediary approach as the one best to achieve results at this stage. At the same time, he also agreed with Mr. Kerim that a more profound reform, which went beyond numbers, was ultimately necessary.

Foreign Minister Ali Babacan also expressed similar views on Council reform during his meeting with Mr. Kerim. In addition, the two men focused on the activities of Turkey in support of UN peacekeeping activities and in the Alliance of Civilization initiative. The Foreign Minister noted that Turkey will be hosting the Forum of the Alliance of Civilizations in April 2009. He also stressed Islam and modernity are not conflicting concepts.

President Kerim also drew attention to the potential for Turkey to play a unique role in development issues as a middle-income donor country with a clear interest in the affairs of least developed countries. At the request of the UN Country Team, Mr. Kerim also raised the issue with the Foreign Minister of having the Turkish Government facilitate the building of a new UN House in Ankara.

While in Turkey, Mr. Kerim also delivered a lecture at Bilkent University on the role of the UN in the era of globalization. Among other topics, he focused on the need to change the way international organizations operate in a new global environment characterized by the rise of non-State actors.

He pointed out that in an evolving international system prone to rapid changes and crisis situations, traditional attributes of power lost their significance, speed was more important than size and the traditional balance of power based on deterrence had to give way to a new understanding based on an equilibrium of shared interests.

The UN provided the most suitable framework for this new culture of international relations as it has the broadest global agenda, a near universal membership and a unique convening power, the President said.

Mr. Kerim now heads to Egypt, where he will be meeting with Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit and address the Egyptian Council for Foreign Affairs, before travelling on to Israel.

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