For a non-plastic waste marine environment

Tuesday, 2020-09-08 10:28:22
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Collecting plastic waste on beaches in Con Dao district (Ba Ria - Vung Tau). Photo: HOANG MINH
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NDO - Marine pollution in Vietnam due to plastic waste continues to increase, having significantly affected the ecosystem, organisms and people's health over recent years. Waste from land and marine-based sources; the capacity to manage it, collection and treatment of waste; public awareness about protecting the marine environment are all considered as the main reasons for the problem.

According to the Vietnam Institute of Seas and Islands under the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MoNRE), plastic waste accounts for between 50% and 80% of marine waste. Currently, Vietnam is ranked fourth among the five countries which have the biggest volume of plastic waste in their seas, with a volume of between 0.28 and 0.73 million tonnes per year (equivalent to around 6% of the world's total plastic waste discharged into the sea).

According to the experts, the main sources of pollution related to marine plastic waste in Vietnam include land-based waste sources and marine-based waste sources from activities such shipping, fishing, natural incidents, floating trash at sea and other activities. On the other hand, over recent years, the marine tourism industry has developed strongly, attracting hundreds of millions of domestic and foreign tourists each year. Thus, the volume of plastic waste discharged by tourists to Vietnam's marine tourism areas is forecasted to be more than 206,000 tonnes by the end of 2020, of which nearly 40% will be discharged into the sea. Many beautiful beaches such as Ha Long Bay, or some islands such as Cat Ba, Phu Quoc, Con Dao, and Cu Lao Cham, are facing the risk of environmental pollution, especially an increasing amount of plastic waste. Worryingly, micro-sized (less than five millimeters) plastic waste formed during the manufacturing process, or fragmentation of plastic materials which exist as suspended matter and in seabed sediments do not decompose easily. They easily accumulate in the biological food chain causing a significant impact on marine ecosystems. Large plastic waste such as nets and floating fishing gear also cause serious harm to marine organisms when they become trapped, reducing fishing productivity and causing impacts on the other ocean ecosystems.

Facing this situation, at the end of 2019, the Prime Minister promulgated the National Action Plan on marine plastic waste management by 2030. The action plan hopes that by 2030, the country will have reduced 75% of plastic waste in the ocean, have collected 100% of lost or discarded fishing tools, and have eradicated the direct discharge of fishing tools into the ocean. With this scheme, Vietnam also hopes all tourist sites, tourist accommodation establishments and other tourism service providers in coastal areas will not use disposable plastic products or non-biodegradable plastic bags. Meanwhile, all coastal nature reserves will become free of plastic waste by 2030.

Deputy Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Le Minh Ngan said, as a management agency in the field of natural resources and environment, the MoNRE has actively implemented the National Action Plan on marine plastic waste management by 2030 in the whole industry, with the aim of focusing on communication, raising awareness and changing behaviour with plastic products and marine plastic waste. Meanwhile, the ministry has proposed and coordinated with coastal localities to build and pilot a model of sorting waste and plastic waste at source in a number of economic zones, urban areas, industrial zones and coastal processing zones.

Currently, the MoNRE is directing functional agencies to review, research, and develop a waste management mechanism for plastic marine waste, in which the focus is on completing and building a new system of environmental technical regulations on plastic marine waste to national standards. The ministry is developing policies to support and encourage organisations and enterprises to produce and use green, recyclable and environmentally friendly products. Meanwhile, the ministry is maintaining cooperative relationships and closely coordinating with countries and international organisations in the field of controlling and managing marine waste and implementing Vietnam's initiatives with the international community on its management.. The MoNRE assigned the Vietnam Administration of Seas and Islands, the General Department of Environment to be the lead agency, coordinate with relevant agencies to synthesize, statistise, classify and assess the sources of plastic waste in coastal areas, islands and from sea activities in order to build a unified specialized database of marine plastic waste, comparable with the national database on waste sources; lead the implementation of in-depth scientific research on the impact of plastic marine waste, especially microplastics on natural resources, the environment, marine ecosystems and human health.

Experts in the field of the marine environment have also suggested that the Government, ministries and branches, especially local governments in coastal localities should organise the effective implementation of movements and campaigns for waste collection and cleaning beaches at national and local level at least twice per year. In particular, it should be noted that the arrangement of storage facilities and waste and plastic waste centres is appropriate, safe and convenient, ensuring aesthetics and environmental sanitation. It is necessary to mobilize more active participation of local people in collection; at the same time, encourage and support organisations and individuals to collect, recycle and reuse plastic waste in river basins, coastal ecosystems areas, mangroves, beaches and coastal water areas. It is necessary to strengthen communcation and advocacy to raise awareness, changing people of all class’ behavior with regard to plastic products and the plastic marine waste.