On January 1, 2020, Thailand introduced a ban on single-use plastic bags with the participation of 75 department stores, convenience stores and other shops with more than 24,500 branches nationwide.
Thailand’s Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Varawut Silpa-Archa told the public that in 2015 Thailand was ranked the sixth in the world for marine plastic pollution and is now ranked tenth: https://www.nytimes.com/reuters/2020/01/01/world/asia/01reuters-thailand-environment-plastic.html.
In the widely cited research published in 2015 by Dr. Jenna Jambeck and colleagues on marine plastics waste, Viet Nam was ranked fourth (https://science.sciencemag.org/content/347/6223/768). But since then Thailand has made more progress than Viet Nam in plastic waste management.
Some Vietnamese scientists and government agencies are dubious about the accuracy of Dr. Jemback’s research. But since no independent research has been carried out in Viet Nam, they have no evidence to refute her results. Rather, Viet Nam should use her results as a call to take serious action.
In order to develop a standardized methodology for plastic waste monitoring in coastal areas in Viet Nam, in February-December 2019, IUCN in partnership with GreenHub prepared a manual entitled “Methodology on monitoring and assessment of beach debris” and conducted beach monitoring activities in 11 MPAs and NPs, including Bai Tu Long, Cat Ba, Bach Long Vi, Con Co, Cu Lao Cham, Ly Son, Hon Cau, Nui Chua, Nha Trang, Phu Quoc and Con Dao.
This methodology was based on NOAA and UNEP guidelines on marine plastic debris monitoring with adjustments for the local context. In March 2019, the method was tested in Hai Phong in collaboration with IMER and Viet Nam University of Science.
Monitoring will take place twice a year over three years with the participation of MPA and NP staff and volunteers. The results of the first phase (May-July 2019) showed that plastic waste makes up to 97% of seven categories of waste collected (plastics, metals, glass, rubber, cloth, wood and miscellaneous). The most common plastic waste was styrofoam, rope/net, container foam and plastic bags.
These initial results were shared at a national workshop on “Ocean Plastic Pollution: Action Plan of Fishery Sector” organised by IUCN and Directorate of Fishery of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development in October 2019. They will serve as valuable input to an Action Plan on Plastic Waste Management of Fishery for 2020-2025.
Running such a program requires sustained effort and technical and financial assistance from government agencies, CSOs, and other stakeholders. Plastic waste monitoring, together with other measures and, critically, government leadership will hopefully remove Viet Nam from the top five countries for marine plastic pollution.
For an instruction video on plastic waste monitoring, please click HERE.
This activity is a part of project “Support for community-based marine turtle nesting beach conservation and bycatch reduction in Viet Nam” with the financial support of U.S. Fish and Wildlife and “Moving towards Model Cities for Waste Management in Coastal Northeast Vietnam (GreenBays)” project financed by United States Agency for International Development (USAID).