Plastic pollution – an alarming for ocean in Vietnam
Vietnam: Plastic Pollution Diagnostics, a study prepared by World Bank with a team from the Centre for Supporting Green Development (GreenHub) carried out the background field survey.
The objective of the diagnostics was to deepen knowledge about the different plastic waste types leaking into rivers and the ocean in Vietnam, and identify and analyze their market alternatives for potential substitution.
The report summarizes three diagnostic studies: These were: (1) field surveys on riverbanks and at coastal sites to determine the extent of plastic pollution, and the top 10 polluting plastic items; (2) remote sensing and drone surveys to monitor plastic leakage through waterways into the ocean, and (3) preliminary analysis of alternatives to the top-polluting plastic items in Vietnam.
The report reveals that Vietnam is one of the countries that contribute to ocean pollution in the world. Annually, about 2.8 to 3.1 million tons of plastic waste are discharged on land in Vietnam, and the country is estimated to be a major plastics polluter. Vietnam is also mentioned as one of the countries with the highest level of mismanaged plastic waste generated by its coastal population. Rapid economic growth, urbanization, and changing lifestyles in Vietnam have led to a country-wide plastic pollution crisis. In urban areas, an estimated 10–15 percent of waste is uncollected, and in rural areas this rises to 45–60 percent.
Overall level of Plastic Pollution in Vietnam: Plastic waste was by far the most abundant type of waste collected in the field surveys (around 94 percent in the number of items; and around 71 percent by weight). Take-away food packaging waste was the most abundant source of plastic waste found in the field surveys (44 percent in number), followed by fisheries-related waste (33 percent in number), and household-related waste (22 percent in number).
The most common plastics items found in field surveys in Vietnam, and the potential to replace them in the value chain
In number, the top 10 common plastic items accounted for over 81 percent of all the plastic items collected in river sites, and over 84 percent found in coastal sites. The top five common plastic items accounted for over 63 percent in number in both river and coastal sites.
Single-use plastic (SUP) items accounted for 72 percent (in number) of the total plastic waste identified at riverbanks and 52 percent (in number) of the total plastic waste identified at coastal sites in the field surveys. Plastic bags and their fragments (around 26 percent of items) were the most common single-use items in the survey locations. When both of these categories of waste were combined, they were the most prevalent in river locations, and the second most prevalent in coastal locations. Styrofoam food containers were among the top five items in both river and coastal locations.
Fishing gear was very prevalent, accounting for around 30 percent of plastic waste (in number).
Top 10 Plastic Waste Items in the Five River Areas
The top 10 plastic waste items accounted between 81.5 percent (Mekong River) and 93.4 percent (Red River) of total plastic waste found in terms of density.
In both rural and urban river sites, the sub-category plastic bags size 1 (0–5kg) was the most frequently encountered item (20.6 percent and 22 percent, in number, respectively). Therefore, the overall average results for the surveys at river sites indicated that 21.9 percent of the total plastic waste encountered was plastic bags, varying between 0–5 kg, followed by Styrofoam food containers, and soft plastic fragments (the latter mostly comprised of plastic bag fragments).
Top 10 plastic waste items at coastal sites: At coastal sites, the top 10 plastic items accounted for 84 percent of the total plastic waste. Among them, combined fisheries-related waste was the most common (32.5 percent),3 followed by soft plastic fragments (18.1 percent), plastic bags size 1 (0–5kg) (7.1 percent), and Styrofoam food containers (6.8 percent) (see Figure 3). Single-use plastic items accounted for 52 percent
Thus, in promoting alternative products, the focus should be on the promotion of reusable, non-plastic items that support overall reduction in the generation of plastic waste. However, for plastic straws, in particular, due to the availability of relatively cheap raw materials for alternatives, high customer acceptance, and a large number of producers of substitute products, single-use alternatives to plastic straws are already well established. Also, these are sold in volumes that are comparable to plastic straws. Promotion of other alternative products through policies and incentives, and supporting the transition to a reuse model by compensating for the higher unit price, will be crucial in further reducing the single-use plastic products that are responsible for most of Vietnam’s plastic pollution.
A roadmap should be developed to phase-in the implementation of bans, restrictions, and taxes/fees on identified SUPs, which are very common in the tourism and retail sectors. The survey results indicate that most of the plastic waste leakage at the studied sites was from a small number of items, many of which were single-use and low-value products. These included plastic bags and take-away plastic waste (for example, food packaging such as Styrofoam, plastic cutlery, plastic straws, and drink-stirrers
Analysis and recommendations for measures to address fisheries- and aquaculture-related plastic waste. The field survey results revealed that fishing gear was the most common plastic item encountered on coastal sites, considering that the diagnostic studies primarily focused on land-based sources of plastics pollution, a more thorough baseline assessment of marine plastic pollution from the fisheries and aquaculture sectors is required, along with an assessment of potential mitigation measures and policy recommendations. In this regard, under the upcoming World Bank Sustainable Fisheries Development Project, the World Bank will initiate technical assistance to support this goal, and identify concrete entry points to kick-start implementation of the Action Plan for Marine Plastic Waste Management in the Fisheries Sector, which the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development has recently adopted.
The survey results, along with the preliminary market analysis of plastics alternatives highlighted the importance of public awareness in addressing plastic pollution. A substantial increase in citizen and youth education on waste reduction, reuse, and halting waste littering, is required to reduce the demand for low-utility plastic, support more cost-effective waste management infrastructure systems, and reduce littering that ends up in rivers and the ocean. An awareness raising and communication strategy should be developed in tandem with the plastics policy analysis and roadmap.