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Circular Economy UAE: Policies In The United Arab Emirates

19.06.2023 8 min read

Circular Economy UAE: Policies In The United Arab Emirates

Since the 1950s, only 6.5% of plastic waste across the globe has been recycled. On average, per capita waste generation in UAE stands at about 1.8 kg/day. This has come down since 2021, when it stood at 2.1 kg/day, the highest in the world.

A key model that can help UAE improve its waste generation and reuse policy is the zero-waste circular economy model, implemented via the UAE Circular Economy Policy (2021). It is no secret that the traditional linear economy operates on a “take-make-dispose” model. Here, resources are extracted, transformed into products, and then ultimately discarded as waste. This unsustainable model has led to massive waste, pollution, and depletion of natural resources, which poses a significant threat to our environment and our future. 

In this article, we will take a closer look at the zero-waste circular economy and its potential to eliminate the risks associated with this traditional model in the UAE and the policies the government has set forth for this objective.

Understanding The Concept of Circular Economy For UAE

A circular economy is a regenerative system that aims to keep resources in use for as long as possible, minimizing waste and pollution and maximizing the value of resources. By designing out waste and pollution, keeping products and materials in use, and regenerating natural systems, a circular economy can create a more sustainable and prosperous future for all.

Adopting a circular economy has been proven to offer numerous benefits for UAE since 2021. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Reducing greenhouse gas emissions, which stood at 193.5 million metric tons of carbon dioxide (MtCO₂) in 2021. By 2030, the policy expects to reduce these emissions by at least 31%. 
  • Creating new business opportunities, 
  • Increasing resource efficiency
  • Reducing prices of resources for manufacturers and end-users alike
  • Create a more resilient and secure economy
  • Improve the usage of finite resources via infinite resources 
  • Support a more localized and distributed system of production and consumption, and more. 

It is now more crucial than ever that the entire UAE works together to transition toward a circular economy. This requires a collective effort from businesses, governments, and individuals to rethink our production and consumption patterns and adopt more sustainable practices. 

A Zero-Waste Circular Economy – What is It?

UAE is moving not only towards implementing a circular economy but is looking to take it to the next step as well. A prime example of this is the Abu Dhabi Sustainable City, Yas Island. It uses clean energy for its operations, benefits from locally grown food, uses recycled water, and more. 

A circular economy is an economic system that aims to keep resources in use for as long as possible while minimizing waste and pollution; a zero-waste circular economy takes this one step further in this city. It strives to eliminate waste entirely, ensuring that all resources are used and reused in a closed-loop system.

In this zero-waste circular economy, the focus is on designing out waste from the beginning by incorporating sustainable design principles and using materials that can be easily and endlessly recycled. This means that products are designed to be durable, repairable, and reusable, focusing on reducing the need for new materials.

Key Pillars

To achieve a zero-waste circular economy, the UAE government and commercial entities are embracing a range of different strategies. These include:

  1. Reducing Waste: This involves reducing the amount of waste that is produced in the first place. This can be achieved through measures such as reducing packaging, designing products to be more durable, and minimizing the use of disposable items.
  2. Reusing Resources: Reusing resources is an important part of a zero-waste circular economy. This can involve repairing and refurbishing products or using waste as a resource for other products or processes.
  3. Recycling: Recycling is a key component of a circular economy, as it allows materials to be reused and repurposed rather than being sent to landfill. To achieve a zero-waste circular economy, it is important to design easily recyclable products and ensure that recycling processes are efficient and effective.
  4. Energy Recovery: In a zero-waste circular economy, waste that cannot be reused or recycled can still be used as a resource. This can involve using waste as a source of energy, such as through incineration or biogas production.
  5. Sustainable Production & Consumption: The most important pillar that the UAE government has implemented in its economy is sustainable production and consumption. This means promoting the use of renewable energy, reducing carbon emissions, and ensuring that the production and consumption of goods and services are aligned with environmental sustainability. RECAPP is actively promoting this venture by providing better means of plastic, metal, electronics, and paperrecycling products and services

These five also serve as the primary pillars of a zero-waste circular economy, enabling UAE to do and be more. By following these pillars, the government is showcasing that a zero-waste circular economy is a holistic approach to sustainable development, which seeks to eliminate waste entirely and ensure that resources are used in a closed-loop system. 

Challenges Hindering The Implementation Of A Zero-Waste Circular Economy

A zero-waste circular economy aims to keep resources in use for as long as possible, extracting maximum value from them and minimizing waste. However, despite the benefits associated with such an economy, UAE is facing several obstacles that make the transition difficult.

Infrastructural & Technological Limitations

Firstly, the lack of infrastructure and technology required for a circular economy is a significant challenge. Many products are designed for a linear economy, making it challenging to repurpose, repair, and recycle them effectively. 

This is compounded by a lack of investment in the necessary infrastructure by giants, making it difficult to establish efficient circular systems. However, it is important to note that the government is actively offering subsidies on more efficient, sustainable products, which is slowly helping the country meet its objectives.  

Lack of Awareness

There is a lack of awareness and understanding of the circular economy in the UAE. This lack of knowledge has resulted in little demand for circular products and services, making it difficult to establish viable business models that support circular practices.

Regulatory Frameworks
The regulatory frameworks and policies are often inadequate or not aligned with the principles of a circular economy. The old frameworks and policies need to be revised and adapted to ensure that they support and promote circular practices.

Communal Effort

The transition to a zero-waste circular economy requires a collective effort from individuals, businesses, and policymakers in the UAE. We must address the challenges highlighted above to ensure a sustainable future for our planet. A single organization, the government on its own, or individuals have no option but to work together moving forward to achieve this objective. 

Key Policies Towards A Circular Economy UAE

The UAE government is working on the principle that a circular economy is an economic system that adopts a restorative and regenerative design. The primary objective is to ensure that all the products, be they new, recycled, or refurbished, are kept at their highest value and usefulness at all times. 

In the UAE, there has been a significant focus on creating a circular economy, and several policies have been implemented to achieve this goal.

National Circular Economy Policy

One of the main policies in place in the UAE is the National Circular Economy Policy, which was launched in 2020. The policy aims to increase the efficiency of resource use, reduce waste, and promote the circular economy in various sectors, including construction, food, and agriculture. 

This policy also aims to divert 98% of municipal solid waste away from landfills by 2030.

The Dubai Industrial Strategy 2030

UAE has implemented several initiatives to support the circular economy. The Dubai Industrial Strategy 2030, for example, focuses on creating a sustainable and innovative industrial sector that promotes a circular economy. 

The strategy aims to increase the percentage of industrial waste diverted from landfills to 75% and reduce water consumption by 8% by 2030. 

Dubai 3R Initiative

The Dubai 3R Initiative focuses on the principles of:

  • Reduce, 
  • Reuse, and 
  • Recycle. 

The initiative aims to reduce waste generation and promote the use of recycled materials in the construction sector. It also aims to increase public awareness of the importance of waste reduction and recycling. RECAPP is a major part of this initiative, focusing on all three aspects therein. 


UAE has also implemented a number of regulations to promote the circular economy, such as the UAE Cabinet Resolution No. 21 of 2021 on the Regulation of Used Cooking Oil. The regulation requires all food establishments in the UAE to dispose of their used cooking oil in a safe and sustainable manner. This initiative not only promotes the circular economy but also protects public health and the environment.

Final Words

As the average temperature across the globe continues to increase, weather extremes are becoming a lot more prominent. To ensure that long-term sustainability of our planet and ourselves as a species, a zero-waste circular economy stands tall as our best chance for a sustainable future. 

The UAE has taken significant steps to create a circular economy through policies, initiatives, and regulations. The country’s commitment to the circular economy is crucial to achieving sustainable development.

The country can overcome these challenges if everyone works together and takes a multi-faceted approach. This may involve investing in infrastructure and technology, increasing awareness about the circular economy, and advocating for policies that promote circular practices.

RECAPP is a company dedicated to creating a better now and the future for all. Whether you want to make a difference on an individual or organizational scale, our products and recycling services are here to help you with your ventures. Get in touch today to learn more about how we can improve upon your initiatives and help you do more!

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