Dubai Airports has set out plans to ban all single-use plastics across its terminals at Dubai International (DXB) and Al Maktoum International Airport (DWC) from 1 January 2020, it announced today.

From the next year onwards, plastic cutlery, water bottles, drinking straws, takeaway food packaging and polythene bags will be banned from cafés, restaurants and shops at Dubai airports, a strategy that might become a “template for other major transportation hubs”, it said in a statement.

Given that 90 million passengers pass through Dubai’s two airports every year, consuming tens of thousands of plastic items, the airport owner admits that it is “a huge challenge to the management team and to every business in the supply chain”.

To tackle this issue, Dubai Airports has been working closely with more than 290 of its concession and hospitality partners, including Costa, Pret a Manger, McDonald’s and Giraffe. In total, 95% of its commercial partners have already signed the pledge to stop using disposable plastic in their outlets from January 2020.

McDonald’s, for instance, will be replacing more than 5 million items with recyclable materials in Dubai’s DXB and DWC airports.

On the other hand, Costa Coffee – which sells more than 2.6 million cups of coffee each year in Dubai’s airports – will be launching a fully-sustainable plant-based “smart” coffee cup. It also plans to introduce a coffee cup lid made entirely from wood and paper fibre instead of single-use plastic later next year.

UAE’s head of sustainability for Costa, Pret a Manger & Giraffe Shemaine Jones described Dubai Airports as a “catalyst for change”. She said that in 2019 alone, the restaurants in Dubai Airports have replaced one million plastic straws with a more sustainable option.

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“We will also introduce more sustainable packaging options, a recycled PET cold cup option and our new avocado seed cutlery. We need those in the water and soft drink industries to push this initiative forward,” Jones added.

“We as an industry need to identify more sustainable recycling solutions.”

With an estimated 5,500 tonnes of single-use plastic being generated at the airports each year, the aim is to recycle a minimum of 2,000 tonnes per year starting March 2020, the airport company said.

The Dubai airport has begun its sustainability journey with circa 11,000 bottles and 280 tonnes of single-use plastic already recycled so far in 2019, it claimed.

In addition to cutting down plastic, the airport is increasingly boosting sustainability by reducing carbon emissions. Last week, Emirates’ ground support division, dnata, completed a “green turnaround” using only zero-emission ramp ground support equipment at DXB.

During the green turnaround, dnata transported baggage with electric tractors to the aircraft and applied electric conveyor belts to offload and load baggage and cargo.

Being environment-friendly is not limited to firms; travellers are also committed to reducing the use of single-use plastic, as revealed by a survey commissioned by Dubai Airport.

The survey revealed that 52% claimed to carry a reusable water bottle while travelling, while 49% chose to dine in an airport restaurant to avoid plastic packaging that comes with takeaway food options.

Almost 32% admitted that they would not buy items at the airport containing non-recyclable materials, while 92% said that airports should be more vocal about what steps they are taking to recycle waste.