Updated: Jun 22
If you think I like to do this, think again.
1. The Middle East’s coronavirus, really?
The title gives the article more than its fair share of importance. The author who is writing from Dubai, begins by bringing attention to a global problem, then uses the quote “in some Gulf cities,” moving on swiftly to quote two “experts” from the UAE, and then to provide free (or paid, I don’t know) PR to the director of a company based in the UAE. She then quotes somebody from the US and another from the World Economic Forum. The pictures used include two taken in Beirut in 2018, another in KSA, one in Dubai and one in a city in India (?). A forgiving definition of the Middle East would include 18 countries, and yet this article was tagged under Middle East.
2. Free PR vs. real reporting
In her introduction of Mr. Peter Avram, the author seems to imply that his company’s products provide an eco-friendly alternative, but that they are “20 to 30 percent more expensive.” Later she quotes Ms. Tatiana Antonelli Abella from Goumbook, who tells us that consumers should “ask restaurants to use sustainable alternatives,” and that we should “choose restaurants that make an effort to serve their food in eco-friendly packaging.” This is followed by a quote from Mr. Avram alluding to home composting of “eco-friendly takeaway items.” Knowing what I know about Mr Avram’s company, Avani Middle East, and its products, I find this frustrating. The only Avani Middle East products which do not require industrial composting are the cassava bags and the wooden cutlery.
During the past couple of years, Avani Middle East’s “#iamnotaplasticstraw” straws popped up in many hip UAE outlets, given the somewhat popular trend to “save the oceans.” But these straws are not home compostable, “they require temperatures above 140 degrees Fahrenheit for 10 consecutive days and need to be properly routed to specialized industrial composting or recycling facilities to break down.” We made several posts about this on the ahlanwasahlan.org social media accounts and had to “go public” on Instagram to raise concern about our unaddressed requests to take down a sponsored ad by a hotel indirectly (or directly, you be the judge) promoting them; incidentally this is also a hotel which installed water dispensers brokered through Ms. Abella’s company.
3. Unfounded claims
Apparently, in 2015, Dubai restaurants and cafes did not serve food and drinks in reusable containers. I met Ms. Amruta Kshemkalyani a couple of times and she never ceases to baffle me with the statements she makes. I appreciate the hard work she puts into her website, despite not being a fan of the website’s sponsored posts and ads, but for the author to give her this much editorial leeway is irresponsible. The numerous quotes from her side include a declaration that there is “no evidence that a switch to sigle-use items is imperative during Covid-19.” At least, she escapes the Avani Middle East tarnish by recommending “palm leaf and wood cutlery.”
4. Autopsy findings
It is understandable for press releases to quote people, but a news article needs to question statements, and substantiate claims. Information has never been more accessible, and yet it is evident that the information we need to make informed choices can be corrupted by business interests.
Link to the article: https://www.arabnews.com/node/1690221/middle-east and this is the link to the pdf version in case the website one gets modified: https://docs.google.com/viewerng/viewer?url=https://www.arabnews.com/sites/default/files/userimages/1036116/ann_p03_16062020.pdf
ahlanwasahlan.org reached out to the author at 2:04am on Thursday via the linked Twitter account, it is now close to midnight on Sunday evening, I am about to publish this, and we have received no response.