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Opinion: Building a waste-free future together

by Guest on Mar 26, 2018

Dr Abdulwahab Al-Sadoun, secretary general of the Gulf Petrochemicals and Chemicals Association (GPCA).
Dr Abdulwahab Al-Sadoun, secretary general of the Gulf Petrochemicals and Chemicals Association (GPCA).

As we conclude another successful edition of GPCA's Waste Free Environment campaign, it is time once again to highlight the importance of sustainability, and more importantly what are the actions needed to enact change, comments Dr Abdulwahab Al-Sadoun.

Waste Free Environment is one of the unique initiatives in the region as it targets the young generation who will grow up to become our ambassadors of change for the future. Over the last two years, the campaign has shifted away from being a clean-up event to expanding its reach and creating greater awareness about the importance of recycling, responsible litter disposal, and the benefits of plastics in modern day life.

It also aims at engaging influential change makers such as government stakeholders, industrial giants, educational institutions and the wider community, across the region and the globe, to shift perceptions of plastic and incorporate sustainability into our daily habits.

The sixth edition of GPCA’s (Gulf Petrochemicals and Chemicals Association) Waste Free Environment campaign comes amid a time of great change in the region, as governments, organisations and global entities prioritise more sustainable practices, greater resource efficiency and higher recycling rates that contribute towards realising – at both regional and global levels – the social, environmental and economic objectives set in recent years.

Incorporating sustainability in national plans

In 2016, all GCC states ratified the Paris Climate Change Agreement (COP21), thus pledging to take voluntary action to mitigate the effects of climate change. This has in turn trickled down into the countries’ national objectives and targets, with Saudi Arabia, for instance, seeking to reduce its annual emissions by up to 130MtCO2e in 2030 through measures that have co-benefits in pursuing economic diversification from oil, while contributing to greenhouse gas abatement and adaptation to climate change.

The GCC states have all incorporated sustainability into their national development plans (UAE Vision 2021, Saudi Vision 2030, Bahrain Economic Vision 2030, Oman National Strategy for Protecting the Environment and Kuwait National Development Plan) as a key element to their economic development, encouraging sustainable use of resources (water and land), diversifying their economy, and protecting the quality of life of their inhabitants. On the implementation side, there is a growing recognition by governments in the region that regulations must come hand-in-hand with sustainable recycling and waste management practices. In the Arabian Gulf, governments and regulators are collaborating on developing best collection practices and vast municipality plastics recycling that support the sustainability and economic objectives in their respective countries.

Within the GCC, the UAE is leading the way in plastic waste regulations, currently working on a new Plastic Waste Management Strategy, in which GPCA – in close collaboration with the UAE Ministry of Climate Change and Environment, Borouge, Cosmoplast and Bee’ah – is playing a key part. Saudi Arabia, which is by far the largest plastics waste market in the region, is also taking key steps in developing its recycling and waste management regulations.

Need for awareness campaigns

According to a GPCA survey, only 38% of the GCC residents have an informed view about recyclable and degradable plastics, signalling the need to incorporate more information on this important subject in the education systems across the region. The survey also found that almost half (48%) of the 4,076 respondents support the practice of recycling plastics into new products, rather than resorting to conventional waste disposal. The survey further revealed that the majority of respondents expect government authorities and plastic manufacturers to take the lead in reducing the environmental impact caused by unmindful littering. The respondents expect the GCC authorities to promote more recycling in the region as well as running more educational and awareness campaigns.

The study’s findings confirm the fact that more collaboration and leadership from government and industry is needed to close the education gap. There are deep-rooted misconceptions around plastics that GPCA hopes to address by working with government agencies and key stakeholders concerned to influence the adoption and implementation of the most effective regulations and standards.

As part of this year’s campaign, the GPCA members are also organising school visits to engage with students, in addition to taking part in environmental clean-ups and public awareness events, designed to reach out to thousands of community members and raise awareness about the importance of the 3Rs and the role of plastics in driving sustainability around the region.


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