Creative protectors unite to fight the Plastic Beast

April 27, 2022 | 16:31
There is an extremely dangerous beast lurking in our oceans and environment causing widespread damage to all living beings on Earth – single-use plastics. Around 100 participants and guests gathered at the launch event and official kickoff of the Plastic Beast campaign at Pandora City in Tan Phu district of Ho Chi Minh City on April 23 to raise awareness and defeat the monster that is plastic waste.
The Plastic Beast installation aims to raise awareness about the threat and urgency to reduce plastic waste in the environment
The Plastic Beast installation aims to raise awareness about the threat and urgency to reduce plastic waste in the environment

The appearance of a huge beast made out of colourful single-use plastic wastes surprised many shoppers and visitors at the busy shopping centre. The Plastic Beast was created to raise awareness about single-use plastic pollution and its dangers to the environment and human health.

Talking with VIR, Vu Hoang My, the first runner-up of Miss Vietnam 2010 expressed her surprise at the sight of the figure and the fact that every Vietnamese can release around 37 kilogrammes of plastic waste per year to the environment. She would be willing to raise awareness among other people and advise them to stop right away.

“We can create more good values for the common environment and the Earth. But if we cannot stop creating “plastic monsters”, we should at least reduce and replace some materials with less harmful products for the environment,” My said.

She added that after being educated about the terrible impact of single-use plastics, she would talk with people of her age and tell them to stop releasing plastic into the environment. “We are killing ourselves if we don’t stop,” My said.

The Plastic Beast campaign, implemented by CHANGE, is funded by the ‘Rethinking Plastics – Circular Economy Solutions to Marine Litter’ project of the European Union and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development. ‘Rethinking Plastics’ is implemented by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit GmbH (GIZ) and Expertise France.

Bilateral efforts

According to counsellor Rui Ludovino of the European Union Delegation to Vietnam, the EU has taken a strong stance on waste management and the circular economy.

“As part of the EU’s Strategy for Plastic in a Circular Economy, the EU has, for example, banned certain single-use plastic products, worked with the private sector, and supported innovation and investments so that all plastic packaging placed on the EU market is reusable or recyclable by 2030,” Ludovino said.

“We are committed to working with ASEAN and other regions in shifting towards a circular economy for plastics, increasing the use of recycled quality plastics into the value chains, and reducing waste while eliminating plastics pollution.”

Ludovino is one of the most verbal advocats of a circular economy and sustainable, plastic-free solutions and supports local and global efforts
Ludovino is one of the most verbal advocates of a circular economy and sustainable, plastic-free solutions and supports local and global efforts

“We hope that this creative approach will contribute to more awareness of Vietnamese citizens, especially the young generation, on reducing single-use plastics and that it will accelerate the collective actions for the prevention of plastic pollution,” Ludovino added.

He also stressed that joined efforts need to include different sectors in the society, including social organisations, research institutes, local authorities, local communities, and enterprises.

“This is very much needed, as marine litter is nowadays one of the greatest environmental threats worldwide. About 60 to 90 per cent of marine litter consists of plastics, of which much comes from single-use plastic products and packaging, such as straws, cups, and bags. Estimates (based on 2010 data) suggest that worldwide a total of 5 to 13 million tonnes of plastic waste find their way into the oceans every year,” Ludovino cited.

“Even though plenty of efforts on international, regional, and national level were taken or are on the way to tackle the plastic challenge, bringing together policy, private sector, academy, non-governmental organisations, and the interested public, we still need to highlight the challenges and threats, but also need to raise awareness for solutions, actions and behavioural changes, as done here today,” he stressed.

Reducing, reusing, and recycling is thus high on the agenda and deemed a set of actions to switch over towards a circular economy for plastics, in which resources are used and managed in a more efficient and sustainable way.

According to Rethinking Plastics coordinator and Expertise France’s senior advisor Fanny Quertamp, ‘Rethinking Plastics’ supports such a transition towards a circular economy for plastics in East and Southeast Asia to contribute to a significant reduction of marine litter. The project does this by supporting, for example, the development and implementation of policies related to plastics, circular economy, and marine litter, as well as by sharing knowledge, experience, and results of innovative pilot projects, and by contributing to awareness-raising.

Thoi Thi Chau Nhi, deputy director of Change, said that humans will become “homo-plastics” if we don’t change our single-use plastics consumption habits.

“Firstly I would change myself, then I would influence my husband and family, and my mother-in-law, but I can change billions of mothers-in-law out there. So, we need the joined efforts of the whole community,” Nhi said.

“No single organisation can solve it. It will require us all to work together: government, businesses, scientists, and the community. We also have realised how challenging it is to turn from awareness to real behaviour change. This Plastic Beast is only a creative tool for us to spread the message; it will take many other interventions and innovations, and especially policies, to reduce single-use plastics consumption,” Nhi said.

The exhibition was implemented by the young and enthusiastic team of CHANGE, with the support of Rethinking Plastics
The exhibition was implemented by the young and enthusiastic team of CHANGE, with the support of Rethinking Plastics

At the event, CHANGE also released a video about the story and process of forming the Plastic Beast and introduced an interesting experience space with activities that attracted many young people and visitors such as the Plastic Beast installation, info boards, pictures, as well as a game area to challenge knowledge about plastic waste and their harmful effects.

In addition, the exhibition area also provided information on practical solutions from social enterprises and organisations operating in the field of plastic pollution reduction

The eleventh-hour

According to the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry, in 2019 Vietnam was among the top five countries dumping the most plastic waste into the ocean. The country’s Mekong River is one of the top 10 rivers polluted by plastic waste globally. Likewise, the amount of microplastics in the Saigon River is 1,000 times higher than that in the Seine (France).

In October 2018, the government adopted the Strategy for Sustainable Development of Vietnam's Marine Economy to 2030, with a vision for 2045.

This strategy aims to significantly prevent, control, and reduce plastic pollution in the ocean, and ensure that all solid waste is collected and treated by 2030. However, implementation remains a challenge. Most people still do not realise the negative impacts of plastic waste on human health and all living creatures on Earth.

Last month, The Guardian reported that microplastics were found in human blood for the first time, quoting Dutch ecotoxicologist Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam Prof. Dick Vethaak saying, “Our study is the first indication that we have polymer particles in our blood.”

The Plastic Beast is displayed in various shopping malls in Ho Chi Minh City such as Vivo Mall and AEON Mall until May 15. More information can be found on the campaign website and the website of CHANGE.

By Bich Ngoc

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