Vietnam mulls how to break the plastic bag habit

13:00 | 15/05/2020 Environment

(VEN) - Vietnam has taken determined measures to limit the use of plastic bags, but the well-known saying that bad habits are hard to break certainly applies to such a convenient and ubiquitous habit.

vietnam mulls how to break the plastic bag habit

Environmentally friendly bags are not widely used by consumers

Plastic bag for each ginger root

In the past, shoppers used hand-baskets or sedge bags to store and carry food and vegetables, but such use has become rare, even in mountainous rural areas. Nowadays, traders offer free plastic bags of all sizes to shoppers that flock to the nation’s many markets.

“Each time going to the market, I come home with on average 5-6 nylon bags. Sometimes, even one bulb of ginger or garlic is also put in a nylon bag. Due to the convenience, it’s difficult now to bring hand-baskets with me as before,” says Quan Thanh Commune resident Hoang Thi Thanh in Hanoi’s Ba Dinh District.

The results are clear and harmful. The United Nations Environment Program ranks Vietnam fourth on the list of nations dumping plastic waste in the ocean. While in 1990, each Vietnamese consumed 3.8 kg of plastic, almost 30 years later, the figure rose to 42 kg, according to a 2019 report by Ipsos Business Consulting, a Paris-based growth strategy consulting firm.

Vietnam has taken several measures to tackle its plastic problem. Last year, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc set a target to achieve zero disposable plastic use in urban shops, markets and supermarkets by 2021 and extend it nationwide by 2025.

Vietnam is not alone in fighting the problem. “For example, in China, we bought goods at a supermarket and it took one yuan, equivalent to VND3,400 to be provided by a seller for a plastic bag,” says Nguyen Thuc Anh, a Hanoi travel company worker. “In the 7-Eleven supermarket chain in Thailand, we have to pay 0.5 Baht for one plastic bag, equivalent to VND750.”

How to change the habit

Tax policies and strict sanctions are considered useful tools to influence consumer behavior. Ireland, the first country in the world that applied plastic bag tax, has reduced consumption by 90 percent since 2002.

Plastic bags in Vietnam are cheap, costing about VND40,000-50,000 per kg. Although the tax imposed on plastic bags has increased, it has not been effective and has not yet changed consumer habits. According to environmental experts and administration agencies, Vietnam needs to impose higher taxes to change so that sellers will consider whether to offer the bags for free or charge buyers for them.

Emmanuel Cerise, Ile-de-France Region’s representative in Hanoi and Director of the Paris-based Agency for International Cooperation in Vietnam said each country develops its plastic bag policies based on culture, customs, and operational capacity of law enforcement agencies. “In my opinion, along with other policies, economic tools will be effective for Vietnam. High taxation on persistent plastic bags will have direct impact on prices of the bags. There will be no free plastic bags and consumers will have to consider their behavior,” Cerise says.

In addition to economic tools, Cerise advises launching public awareness campaigns that include instructions on how to reuse plastic bags instead of throwing them away after one use.

Thu Huong