On Tuesday, 26 June, 300 volunteers trained by IUCN collected almost half a ton of trash – 82% of which was single-use plastics – in 30 minutes from a 500-metre stretch of beach in Da Nang, Viet Nam. The exercise coincided with the sixth Global Environment Facility (GEF) Assembly currently taking place in Da Nang, and highlighted the urgent to need for government action to reduce plastic pollution.
IUCN collaborated with the Vietnam Seas and Islands Administration of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MoNRE) to train the volunteers, including community members, students, and representatives from local and national government. The clean-up was meant to raise public awareness of the seriousness of marine plastic pollution, and to call all sectors to action on the issue.
Later in the day, marine plastic pollution was emphasised at the GEF Assembly side event ‘Marine Plastic Debris Management.’ Dr Cyrie Sendashonga, Global Director of IUCN’s Policy and Programme Group and a panellist for the event, noted that “marine plastic pollution is a complex problem that government alone cannot solve,” but that while the “participation of business, schools, the media, and the public is needed,” government leadership is crucial to mobilising these sectors to action. She then called upon MoNRE to continue providing this leadership for Viet Nam.
A 2015 survey showed that five countries in Asia, including Viet Nam, may account for as much as 60% of marine plastic debris in the ocean. This, combined with Viet Nam’s particular vulnerability to sea level rise, makes it a potentially strong leader in the global effort to reduce plastic pollution. IUCN has recognised this leadership potential since collaboration with Viet Nam began in 1984, but it recently manifested on the global stage when Viet Nam Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc proposed a global alliance to combat marine plastic pollution at the G7 Summit earlier this month.
Through its new Marine Plastics and Coastal Communities (MARPLASTICCS) initiative, IUCN hopes to leverage the political will of five pilot countries, represented in Asia by Viet Nam and Thailand, to control plastic pollution. MARPLASTICCS will do this by equipping governments, industry and society with knowledge, capacity, policy options and plans of action. In Viet Nam, IUCN will look primarily to MoNRE to mobilise behaviour change among partners in the education, media, private and public sectors.