Joint effort underway to tackle plastic waste challenges

The problem of “White pollution – plastic pollution” has become a tough challenge to Vietnam, asking for collaboration between the State and businesses to solve.

The sign with the message 'No plastic waste disposal to ocean'

Deputy Director Nguyen Thi Thanh My of the HCMC Department of Natural Resources and Environment informed that to address the growing issue of white pollution, HCMC has been launching various joint propaganda campaigns and practical activities with businesses to encourage its dwellers to reduce the use of single-use or undegradable plastic bags, to gather and recycle plastic waste.

For instance, the city has introduced the project ‘Promoting a Circular Economy for Plastic Waste in Can Gio District’, sponsored by Coca-Cola Fund and operated by GreenHub; or the project to gather used plastic packaging in District 7 in cooperation with Unilever Vietnam.

GreenHub reported that after two years carrying out the above project in Can Gio District, positive signs have been seen regarding establishing a recycling value chain in the district, promoting a cleaner and greener environment for local residents.

Accordingly, five scrap yards experienced an increase in their income after receiving project support to improve their facilities. 51 female scrap collectors received training on occupational safety and were provided with work tools to enhance their performance. The project raised awareness about plastic waste collection, classification and recycling, as well as responsible tourism, to 2,000 tourists. It also provided information on plastic waste collection and classification to 76,516 individuals.

Unilever Vietnam stressed that it has always pioneered and committed to environmental protection via close collaboration with functional agencies and other organizations to solve environment-related problems. Besides the current project in District 7, it has worked with Central Retail Vietnam for waste sorting at source to help form a meaningful habit in the community.

At the national level, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment has collaborated with Nestlé Vietnam to launch the project ‘Neutralizing plastic waste by 2025’, focusing on raising public awareness and promoting responsible plastic waste management practices.

The Ministry has also joined hand with Unilever Vietnam and other partners for the scheme ‘Public-Private Partnership Program for Building a Circular Economy in Plastic Waste Management’. The scheme welcomes the participation of 27 members which are businesses specializing in waste gathering and recycling or educational institutes sharing the same vision and mission on plastic waste management. These groups have also actively contributed to implementing the ‘National Action Plan for Ocean Plastic Waste Management by 2030’.

Environmental experts admitted that businesses always play a critical role in reducing plastic waste and facilitating activities for environmental protection purposes. They not only observe environmental laws but also actively implement various innovative measures to optimize input material use to help decrease emissions.

Confirming the willingness to go in line with the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry in adopting feasible solutions for plastic waste reduction, Nestlé Vietnam has already switched from using plastic straws for their drink cartons to paper straws. Only in two years of 2021-2022, the corporation was able to cut down its plastic usage by approximately 2,400 tonnes. Currently, over 90 percent of its product packaging is designed for recycling.

Similarly, Coca-Cola Vietnam has officially announced its ambitious sustainable packaging goals: to collect and recycle the equivalent of every bottle/can sold globally by 2030 and to use at least 50 percent of recycled materials in packaging by 2030.

According to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, the Environmental Protection Law identifies the business community as a vital factor in environmental protection. Effectively implementing environmental protection measures not only turns these enterprises into socially responsible businesses (SRBs) but also enhances their competitiveness, facilitates international market entry, and ensures sustainable development. The Ministry highly appreciates the collaboration of businesses, particularly the private sector, in partnering with the government to share the responsibility of addressing waste issues specifically and environmental protection in general.

Assoc Prof Dr Nguyen Hong Quan – Head of the Institute of Circular Economy Research and Development (Vietnam National University-HCM) stated that the participation of businesses and international organizations in plastic waste management, and environment matters in general, brings about several practical benefits.

Thanks to their financial and technological advantages, along with their high responsibility, plastic waste gathering and treatment will be achievable goals. However, the Government should introduce policies and mechanisms to incentivize plastic waste recycling, develop markets for recycled products, and provide tax breaks and preferential loans.

Statistics from the from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment indicate that Vietnam generates over 1.8 million tonnes of plastic waste annually, with HCMC alone producing around 80 tonnes per year. The amount of non-biodegradable plastic bags is increasing non-stop each year, leading to such a heavy burden to the environment that people consider it ‘White pollution’. Ultimately, this pollution type will negatively affect human beings’ physical health.

In the plan to strengthen the management of plastic waste reduction, recycling, and reuse for the 2022-2025 period, Chairman Phan Van Mai of the HCMC People’s Committee directs relevant state units to:

  • Intensify propaganda activities about the harmful effects of single-use plastic products and non-biodegradable plastic packaging on the marine ecosystems, the environment, and human health;
  • Control and limit plastic waste from the source;
  • Organize the classification, collection, reuse, recycling, and treatment of plastic waste;
  • Promote international cooperation, scientific research and application, and technology transfer;
  • Encourage organizations and individuals with the functions and qualifications to carry out plastic waste collection, reuse, and recycling activities in the city.

He also asks that the HCMC Department of Natural Resources and Environment provide preferential loans in accordance with regulations from the city's Environmental Protection Fund for individuals, organizations, and businesses that collect, transport, recycle, and treat plastic waste; and produce environmentally friendly products that have been awarded the Vietnam Green Label by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment in the city.

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