Dubai — The Plastics Recycling Show Europe (PSRE) in Amsterdam, serving the European recycling industry, has expanded to open the Plastics Recycling Show Middle East & Africa (PSRME&A).

The event in Dubai opened Sept. 5 and continues to Sept. 7 at the Dubai World Trade Centre.

“The show comes at the perfect time, showcasing the importance of plastics recycling and the move to the circular economy in the United Arab Emirates,” Othaibah AlQaydi, acting assistant undersecretary of the sustainable communities sector in the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment, said during her keynote speech.

Ahead of COP28, the host country has announced it will ban single use plastic bags by January 2024 and the import of plastic cutlery, drinks cups, boxes and expanded foam containers by January 2026.

While the market share for recycled plastics is still small and has mainly focused on producing lower quality recycled polymers to keep prices down, the market is starting to move towards producing high quality recycled resins for food grade and medical applications.

This move is being driven by consumer demand and multinational companies operating in the Middle East, according to Wail Aljaaidi, CEO of Saudi Top Plastic. These companies follow the targets set by their headquarters, usually located in countries with recycled content mandates, so they are pushing local converters to increase their recycled supply, he said.

Working on increasing the volume of recycled plastics is on the agenda in the UAE, as is increasing the quality and consistency. During a panel discussion, officials pointed to the importance of recycled content mandates and extended producer responsibility in achieving these goals.

Monir Bou Ghanem, policy advisor for the Abu Dhabi Environment Agency said the Emirate capital is focused on reducing, reusing, and recycling plastics, in that order of priority.

“Our enemy is not plastic, it is single use,” he said. Over 90 percent of plastic ends up in landfill in the UAE, but in five years the city of Abu Dhabi wants to divert up to 85 percent of that waste.

For Maryam Al Mansoori, general manager at Rebound Plastic Exchange, educating consumers and the plastic industry as a whole about the cost differences between producing virgin and recycled plastics is key to create a robust local supply chain. Constant price negotiations when virgin resin prices drop below recycled are incongruent because the cost of two manufacturing processes are not comparable, she argued.

“Sustainability and circularity cannot happen for free,” Al Mansoori said.

The three-day exhibition and conference are the first and only event in the Middle East and Africa specifically dedicated to plastics recycling. A broad cross-section of the industry is represented at the event including plastics recycling machinery and equipment suppliers, plastic material suppliers and compounders, pre-processors, plastics recyclers, recycling and waste management specialists, regional government and industry associations. The conference program features international experts who will address key themes including the circular economy, regulations, challenges, opportunities, innovations, technologies and trends, and share insights and experiences from across the sector promoting the sustainable use of plastics.