Pushing Back “White Pollution”

9:31:05 AM | 11/9/2020

Environmental pollution caused by plastic waste and plastic bags, also known as "white pollution", seriously affects environment and human health. Vietnam is one of the countries in the world where the amount of plastic waste and plastic bags is increasing and difficult to control. Therefore, the control of plastic waste and plastic bags is becoming an urgent environmental matter today.

Plastic waste is the second most painful environmental problem in the world, just after climate change. In Vietnam, plastic products and plastic bags have become indispensable items in everyday life. Given their advantages of durability, strength, convenience and low price, plastic products and plastic bags are widely used almost everywhere, especially in big cities. Notably, this amount of plastic bags has increased year by year.

According to studies by scientists, plastic waste and plastic bags, if landfilled, will contaminate soil and water environment, hinder growth and development of plants, and cause soil erosion, and harm ecological development. Plastic bags also clog drains, ditches and canals to cause waterlogging. On the other hand, burning plastic bags will create toxic dioxin gas and furan poisoning that harm endocrine glands, reduce immunity, cause digestive dysfunction and birth defects in children and cause cancer.

A representative of the Vietnam Environment Administration (VEA) said that each year, the amount of plastic waste produced by humans globally is enough to cover four times the Earth's surface, of which 13 million tons of plastic waste is dumped into the oceans. According to the United Nations, the amount of plastic produced will double in the next 10-15 years, expected to reach 500 million tons by 2025 and 619 million tons by 2030. Vietnam has about 1.8 million tons of plastic waste each year, growing by 16-18% a year, standing among the Top 5 countries that dump most plastic into the oceans. Waste treatment and recycling in Vietnam has yet to meet the demand, especially waste sorting at source.

To reduce the use of disposable plastic waste, the Prime Minister of Vietnam issued Directive 33/CT-TTg on strengthening management, reuse, recycling, treatment and reduction of plastic waste. Accordingly, the Prime Minister instructed the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment to complete institutions for solid waste management in the draft Law on Environmental Protection (amended), which will see waste and plastic waste as natural resources; promote the development of circular economy models; reduce waste and classify waste at the source; collect, reuse, recycle, and treat waste (including plastic waste); and develop technical guiding documents for waste classification at source.

Besides, the Prime Minister assigned the Ministry of Finance to study and submit to competent authorities the amended Law on Environmental Protection Tax in the direction of expanding taxable objects and increasing tax rates for plastic bags, packages and other plastic products; study propose taxation of virgin plastics; and direct inspection and examination into environmental tax evasion. For medical facilities and schools, plastic waste reduction is a required criterion for ranking. The Ministry of Education and Training will build and integrate waste sorting at source contents into educational activities for students.

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment shall be responsible for coordinating with the Ministry of Industry and Trade to count and classify plastic materials used in production, consumption and plastic waste; build a national database on plastic use and plastic waste; conduct research on current situations, generation trends and plastic waste management. The ministry shall elaborate and submit to the Prime Minister a scheme on the establishment of concentrated recycling industrial parks to form a recycling industry and market.

The Ministry of Finance will be responsible for working with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment to study and propose financial policies to promote and encourage waste recycling and plastic waste recycling, provide incentives and support for eco-friendly plastic bags, recycled plastic products and environmentally friendly materials; and research and develop priority criteria or norms to apply public procurement for recycled and environmentally friendly products.

Particularly for accommodation and tourism service companies, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism will study and supplement criteria for minimizing the use of disposable plastic products and ungradable plastic bags; and offer alternatives in the tourism industry. To carry out the above contents, the Prime Minister requested agency leaders at central and local levels to issue directives or plans for minimization, classification, collection, reuse, recycling and treatment of plastic waste in industries, fields and areas within their jurisdiction, scheduled to be completed before October 30, 2020.

By Minh Ngoc, Vietnam Business Forum