Alliance combats plastic waste

June 26, 2019 | 13:00
The government, along with the business community and regular citizens in Vietnam, are together striving to limit plastic waste and eager to further assist in the global battle against the increasing menace. Phuong Hao reports.  
alliance combats plastic waste
Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc launched a plastic waste awareness drive on June 9 in Hanoi

According to a study by American and Canadian scientists published in the journal PLOS ONE, a product of the US Public ­Library of Science, the packaging of daily used plastic items like water bottles will produce greenhouse gases (GHGs) when decomposed in nature.

The study indicates that biodegradable resins produce strong GHGs such as methane and ethylene. ­GHGs are believed to be the culprits that increase global temperatures, causing global warming and sea level rises, and threatening many coastal communities.

Meanwhile, according to the Journal of Toxicology and Risk Assessment, long-term usage and exposure of plastic products to high temperatures can lead to toxic chemical constituents finding its way into food, drinks, and water. Indiscriminate disposal of plastics on land and open air burning can also lead to the release of toxic chemicals into the air, causing a public health hazard.

Last week an alliance with the mission to lessen the impact of plastic waste in Vietnam’s soft drinks industry made its debut in Ho Chi Minh City, with the participation of dozens of major players such Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, and Nestlé.

Vu Thanh Truc, director of public relations at Coca-Cola told VIR, “This initiative will help us increase plastic waste recycling, reduce leakage, and raise the use of recycling content in packaging, supporting for the growth of the circular economic model.”

According to Truc, in the alliance there is no upper limit for partnerships and those wanting to join if they share the same values, visions, and commitments. “We believe this programme will help us synergise our resources not only internally but also externally through our value chain, serving for the achievement of our mutual goals.”

“We believe every package has value and life beyond its initial use, and should be collected and recycled into either a new package or another beneficial use,” she added. “We would like to position ourselves as part of the solution, providing leadership to create positive changes in the communities where we live and do business.”

Meanwhile, Pham Hoang Hai, co-ordinator of the ­Vietnam Business Council for Sustainable Development under the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry, told VIR that this is one of the projects making use of the ­lessons learnt from the ­Reduce, Reuse and Recycle programme in Ho Chi Minh City.

According to Hai, Coca-Cola Vietnam has committed to discharging zero plastic waste with the model of the circular economy by 2030. PepsiCo is also trying to replace plastic bottles with glass bottles while Nestlé has set a goal of recycling and reusing 100 per cent of product packaging by 2025.

Currently there are no statistics of the amount of plastic waste released by the three brands in Vietnam but, according to the latest report by Greenpeace, a United States-based global organisation in favour of environmental protection, the amount of waste produced by the three, the world’s top three food and beverage groups, accounts for 65 per cent of the globe’s plastic waste.

The commitment and participation of the three brands along with many other beverage names in the alliance is a good signal for the future of plastic waste in Vietnam, particularly when the country has about 1,800 facilities producing soft drinks with an average consumption of over 23 litres per person annually.

In another case, as a member of the coalition of businesses against plastic waste, state-owned flag carrier Vietnam Airlines has provided customers with paper and nylon made from corn flour items instead of plastic ones across its 500 flights per day.

Meanwhile, Thinh Dat International JSC, a company specialising in manufacturing and supplying products and services nationwide, has moved from producing plastic straws to using bamboo and stainless steel instead, and from plastic bags to paper and flour bags.

Governmental actions

In early June in Hanoi, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc launched the movement “The whole country against plastic waste”, saying that waste is a global problem. Every year, the amount of discharged plastic is enough to cover the surface of the Earth four times, including 13 million tonnes of plastic waste floating on the oceans. Plastic waste is daily and hourly, negatively affecting ecosystems, habitats, human health, and the sustainable development of each country.

“Every household must restrict plastic waste, each individual must prevent plastic waste, and society must look forward to saying no to plastic waste,” the prime minister added.

On behalf of localities responding to the movement against plastic waste, Nguyen Duc Chung, Chairman of the Hanoi People’s Committee said that Hanoi will soon sign commitments with manufacturers and distributors to fight against plastic waste in the field of industrial production. “Hanoi’s target is that by December 31, 2020, 100 per cent of commercial centres and supermarkets will not use plastic bags,” Chung said.

The movement is spreading throughout the country. The central province of Thua Thien-Hue has begun serving drinking water stored in glass bottles in meetings instead of plastic ones.

“There are meetings every day, sometimes meetings happen in all rooms and even in the ballrooms,” said Tran Thi My Nhung, a staff member in the office of the Thua Thien-Hue People’s Committee.

“Before, we had to buy about 30-40 bottled water boxes to serve in meetings. Now we use boiled water and glass bottles. Thanks to these, we can save about VND3 million ($130.40) without discharged plastic bottles,” Nhung added.

According to her, all staff also take glass containers to store water instead of plastic bottles.

The Thua Thien-Hue People’s Committee has issued the directive on anti-plastic waste and single-use plastic bags. Accordingly all agencies, units, and localities across the province must have a plan for all employees not to use single-use bottled water and plastic bags. The province also assigned specialised agencies to find solutions for using environmentally-friendly materials. It even requires the Thua Thien-Hue Department of Finance not to pay any expenses for single-use plastic products.

Changing habits

Elsewhere, many supermarkets have also been switching into using environmentally -friendly materials like Saigon Co.op, Lotte Mart, and Big C. Over 700 supermarkets of Saigon Co.op now use paper bags and boxes instead of plastic bags. Before that, the supermarket chain was a pioneer in Vietnam in using banana leaves to wrap vegetables instead of plastic.

The change in action from authorities and enterprises has effectively impacted awareness. Now, many regular citizens are using boxes and fabric bags when shopping.

Nguyen Phuong Hoa, a 36-year-old resident in Cau Giay district of Hanoi, has said no to nylon bags for nearly a year. She often takes her own bags to go shopping, stores meat in glass boxes, and keeps different glass water bottles. “This way, I can save the use of about five or six, or even 10 nylon bags per day.”

Living in the same residential area as Hoa, 40-year-old Tran Thu Huong has also been active in the movement against plastic waste. In trying to limit the use of single-use plastic items, Huong has been calling for her neighbours to act with her. She educates her children and their friends about impact of plastic waste. Collecting plastic items for children’s small projects, or creating toys or tools from used plastic are things that Huong is doing to contribute to limiting waste.

“Our small actions show our responsibility to the community and environment, and helps further our children’s future,” Huong told VIR.

What the stars mean:

★ Poor ★ ★ Promising ★★★ Good ★★★★ Very good ★★★★★ Exceptional