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Vietnam struggles to limit plastic waste, curb use of plastic bags

22 Jun 2020

Vietnam aims to replace all plastic bags currently in use by environmentally friendly plastic bags at commercial centers and supermarkets by 2025. This target was set by Prime Minister’s Decision No.491/QD-TTg dated May 7, 2018 approving the adjustment of a national strategy on solid waste management until 2025, with a vision towards 2050.

However, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MONRE) is reporting that Vietnam is currently facing pollution caused by increasing plastic waste. The country generates 1.8 million tonnes annually, but recycles only 27 percent. Vietnam is also facing the risk of becoming a global dumping site with a 200 percent increase in plastic waste over the past year and its per capita plastic waste has increased sharply each year from 3.8 kg to 41.3 kg a person between 1990 and 2018.

The United Nations Environment Program ranked Vietnam as the world’s fourth largest marine plastic polluter after China, Indonesia and the Philippines. It has been estimated the country dumps an average of 300,000-700,000 tonnes of plastic waste into the ocean per year.

The amount of plastic waste and plastic bags accounts for about 8-12 percent of domestic solid waste, which is a burden on the environment known as “white pollution”. In Vietnam’s major cities, the rate of waste sorting at the source is very low, and its out-of-date plastic recycling technologies operate at low efficiency, high cost and environmental pollution. Meanwhile, an increasing number of Vietnamese have embraced the use of nylon bags and disposable plastic items.

According to Deputy Head of the Domestic Market Department under the Ministry of Industry and Trade (MOIT) Le Viet Nga, there are currently over 8,460 planned markets, 1007 supermarkets and shopping centers; more than 5,000 shops selling electronic, apparel, fashion products along with tens of thousands of convenience stores distributed throughout the country.

Therefore, environmental experts suggested Vietnam needs to adopt synchronous policies to change the behavior of both consumers and traders in traditional markets regarding the use of disposable plastic bags but also encourage domestic businesses to produce environmentally friendly disposable plastic products at reasonable prices.

Marie-Lan Nguyen Leroy, an environment expert from the French Development Agency said disposable plastic bags are widely used by businesses, retailers, and salespeople because they are cheap and more profitable than products made of other materials. Therefore, Vietnam needs to amend public policies to influence the cost of disposable products in order to minimize hazardous waste. Once costs are no longer cheap, sellers will consider alternatives. “There is no optimal technology to thoroughly handle the domestic solid waste problem, including plastic waste. You need to impose very high taxes, including environmental, consumption taxes on persistent disposable plastic products and you will see noticeable results,” she said.

At the National Scientific Conference on solid waste management held in mid-December 2019 in Hanoi, after gathering opinions from experts on the management of domestic solid waste, the MONRE agreed with the proposal. However, according to experts, to ensure fair competition among enterprises, the scope of state subsidies for collection, transportation and treatment of domestic solid waste should only apply to household waste.

Source: Vietnam Economic News

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