Raising awareness of plastic pollution

Monday, 2019-07-08 17:25:29
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Women in Da Nang city’s Thanh Khe district respond to the movement of exchanging plastic waste for glass water bottles.
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NDO – In order to step by step mitigate plastic pollution, communication work should be regularly and constantly implemented to raise the community’s awareness of the adverse impacts of plastic waste, in addition to effectively observing the laws and policies concerned.

As reported by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in 2018, one million plastic bottles were bought around the world every minute, while five trillion single-use nylon bags were discharged into the environment annually. Everyday and every hour, plastic waste is negatively affecting the ecosystem, habitats, human health and sustainable development of each country. In Vietnam, if 10% of plastic liiter items and single-use nylon bags are not recycled, around 2.5 million tonnes of plastic waste will be generated each year. Worryingly, research results show that Vietnam currently ranks fourth globally in terms of plastic waste leaked into the ocean, at around 0.28-0.73 million tonnes per year (equivalent to 6% of the world’s total figure).

According to Assoc. Prof. Dr. Vu Si Tuan, deputy head of the Vietnam Administration of Seas and Islands (VASI), despite the increasing volume of plastic waste, Vietnam just generally stipulates plastic waste as being among the group of reusable and recyclable items, but has yet to issue private regulations and specific instructions concerning the management, collection and disposal of marine plastic waste. Meanwhile, the elimination or loss of fishing gear in fishing activities, and the disposal of plastic waste in other socio-economic activities taking place at sea have also not been strictly managed and controlled yet. Plastic waste dumped into the sea will cause widespread pollution and impact the habitat of marine animals such as dolphins, sea turtles, and seabirds. Especially, microplastics of less than 5 mm in size can be ingested by fish species, thus entering the food chain and causing harmful impacts on human health.

Deputy Director of the Vietnam Environment Administration, Hoang Van Thuc, said that over recent times, Vietnam has issued many policies directly related to the management of plastic waste and bags. The Prime Minister recently approved a scheme on enhancing the control of environmental pollution caused by the use of non-degradable nylon bags until 2020, while adopting supplements to the national strategy for integrated solid waste management to 2025, vision to 2050. The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MONRE) cooperated with ministries, branches and localities to organise workshops to raise public awareness of the adverse impacts of the use of non-degradable plastic bags and encourage the increasing use of biodegradable nylon bags in the community.

Notably, the MONRE implemented a number of communication solutions on the harmful effects of plastic waste, such as the emulation movement themed “Take action to reduce plastic and nylon pollution”, calling on all officials and employees of the environmental sector, as well as their families and relatives, to “say no to single-use plastics and nylon bags”. The ministry also coordinated with many localities from across the country to organise campaigns collecting and recycling plastic waste and nylon bags from markets, supermarkets, trade centres and residential areas, aiming to encourage consumers to minimise the use of single-use plastic products and non-degradable nylon bags, and give up the habit of littering indiscriminately. Most recently, the MONRE collaborated with the Hanoi People's Committee and the Ho Chi Minh Communist Youth Union Central Committee to launch the national movement, “Combating plastic waste 2019”, which was enthusiastically acted upon through the central to local levels with practical actions and deeds.

As for the business community, the ministry requested that units design and seriously implement communication plans on combating single-use plastic waste and nylon bags in various forms. Through these programmes, businesses and residential communities are hoped to transform their awareness into specific actions, towards using environmentally-friendly plastic waste and nylon bags in an economical and effective manner.

In addition, the MONRE suggested voting and publishing environmentally-friendly products, stores and supermarkets to encourage and honour enterprises, organisations and individuals who have significant contributions dealing with the issue of plastic waste. Besides, ministries, branches, local governments and businesses need to coordinate closely with mass media agencies to disseminate and replicate practical models, initiatives and actions in addressing plastic waste, as well as frankly and strongly criticise shortcomings in the use and management of plastic waste, thus making reasonable and timely adjustments. Media agencies should continue to honestly, objectively and quickly communicate on combating plastic waste nationwide in many different forms, thereby enabling people, officials, civil servants, workers and the whole community to “say no” to the habit of using single-use plastics.