Plastic shopping bags will be completely phased out in the UAE by 2012, officials have ruled.
The UAE Cabinet decree has endorsed the proposal to help prevent environmental damage, Gulf News reported.
Plastic bags take hundreds of years to degrade, so in a bid to reduce waste officials have banned their use from 2012. Instead, alternatives like paper or biodegradable plastic bags will have to be used.
"This initiative will include six main areas, the most important of which is education using all media, in all languages and to explain the negative impact of misusing plastic bags," said Hunaida Qaid, head of the environmental education section at the Ministry of Environment and Water.
Efforts to curb the use of plastic bags have already been taken by some retailers.
Géant hypermarket was the first retailer in the emirate to introduce a deposit payment scheme for plastic bags in February 2008.
Meanwhile, Carrefore stocks re-usable carrier bags at its checkouts in a bid to encourage customers to re-use bags and reduce plastic waste.