Dubai Airports set to implement eagerly anticipated ban on single-use plastics

By Andrew Pentol |


Dubai Airports will implement its ambitious ban on single-use plastics on 1 January 2020.

Dubai Airports is looking ahead to its self imposed ban on all single-use plastics at Dubai International (DXB) and Al Maktoum International Airports (DWC) which will be implemented on 1 January 2020

The ambitious plan to ban single-use plastics was first announced in June 2019. Dubai Airports has been working closely with more than 250 of its concession and hospitality partners to meet the deadline. With 90 million passengers passing through DXB and DWC each year, consuming extortionate amounts of plastic items from straws to water bottles and coffee lids daily, the plastic-free initiative has presented serious challenges for those involved.

Speaking to TRBusiness earlier this year, Eugene Barry, Executive Vice President, Dubai Airports said: “At Dubai Airports we are committed to our environmental agenda and supporting the wider objective of protection of the environment. The ban on single-use plastics is one initiative we have prioritised in 2019 due to a number of reasons and in turn, support our partners with the infrastructure required to handle recyclable materials.

“The majority of the single-use plastic bottles and caps generated within the airport come from two main sources; the first being from the hospitality and retail outlets and the second from passengers passing through the airport security.

“Within the airport concourses, we are working with our service partners to collect and recycle as much as possible. At the security touch points, we are able to take ownership a little more and have developed a detailed collection strategy to support our objectives. Recycling bins are widely available at all security points and collected on a daily basis to be taken to a central location for emptying, sorting and baling prior to being sent to the local recycling company.”


The phased approach will see plastic cutlery, drinking straws, take-away food packaging and polythene bags removed from cafés, restaurants and shops. During the next year, additional products will be replaced  in customer spaces and behind the scenes.

Barry said: “Along with our partners, including global brands such as McDonalds, Costa Coffee and Starbucks, we are committed to not only removing single-use plastics but in their place providing appropriate and importantly sustainable alternatives.”

Elaborating on the challenges associated with this initiative Barry commented: “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.”

The additional recycling points will also support with the management of bottles and waste brought in to the airport daily. Dubai Airports expects this to decrease as people become more conscious of their usage. According to results from a specially commissioned survey, travellers are indeed showing increased awareness around the personal use of plastic and recycling, at home and while travelling.


The plastic-free initiative has presented significant challenges for those involved due to the high volume of passengers passing through DXB and DWC each year.

In the UAE, over half (52%) of respondents claim to carry a reusable water bottle while travelling, while 49% would choose to dine in an airport restaurant to avoid plastic packaging that comes with take-out food options. Almost a third (32%) of respondents refuse to buy items at the airport containing non-recyclable materials and crucially 92% of respondents state that airports should be more vocal about what steps they are taking to recycle waste.

Looking ahead to next year, more single-use plastic products will be replaced throughout the two airports by concession and hospitality partners. McDonalds, for example, will replace  5,608,740 items with recyclable materials at DXB and DWC.

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

Look out for an extended interview with Eugene Barry, Executive Vice President, Dubai Airports focusing on the company’s commitment to sustainability among other issues.

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