How can tap water become popular to cut down single-use plastic in UAE?
Dubai: Last year, the Dubai Municipality said that as part of a new Food Code, restaurants would be encouraged to offer free tap water — from this year, 2020 — to reduce the use of single-use plastics.
This was suggested at the sidelines of the Dubai International Food Safety Conference in November where an official added that as part of the changes, landlords would also be liable for the condition of water tanks in private residences — and it would now be written into tenancy contracts that the landlord would have to arrange regular cleaning.
All this would be done, with a view to eventually becoming law, implied the official.
However, Dubai Municipality offered a clarification.
Iman Al Bastaki, Director of the Food Safety Department at Dubai Municipality, said that the Food Code said nothing about making tap water mandatory in hotels and restaurants — and that tap water could only be consumed if tanks and pipes were cleaned, maintained and laboratory tested by Emirates International Accreditation Centre (EIAC)-approved facilities.
“Water tank cleaning requirements have been there since 14 years and there is nothing new,” she said.
“The Food Code says that if the hotel/restaurant is providing filtered tap water, it must be safe. This is not a new requirement either. The Food Code says that the water must be potable, whether it is for bottles or ice. Don’t forget that ice is produced in machines that run on tap water.”
Water before meter is safe
Effectively, this means that the water before the meter is already safe, and Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA) confirmed this.
“The quality of the water that DEWA provides up to the meter meets the highest internationals standards and is in accordance with World Health Organisation (WHO) standards.
“However, DEWA recommends that all water tanks and internal connections be in accordance with its specifications. Tanks should be regularly cleaned and maintained to prevent blockages and ensure the quality of the water.”
However, despite the safety of water and even with EIAC approvals, which restaurants clearly have to obtain to get a food safety licence, it seems it will not be mandatory for restaurants to offer free tap water, yet.
How are environmentalists viewing the issue? They are seeing the clarification as a positive move and believe that it is evidence that fruitful discussions are ongoing.
Moves against single-use plastics
In the midst of all this, Dubai Airports announced that they are banning all single use plastics from this year, and Abu Dhabi declared efforts to ‘substantially’ reduce single use plastic by 2021.
Entities such as the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) and Dubai Municipality’s food court are also switching to tap water, so it is on the wider agenda.
The UN have called for global action to beat plastic pollution.
The numbers are daunting: from 400 million tonnes of plastic waste produced each year, 36 per cent is single use, and water bottles are a big offender, especially in this region where the prevalence and trend for buying bottled water is so high.