Wednesday, August 21 2019

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Health minister calls for reduction of plastic waste in health sector

Update: August, 16/2019 - 16:12
Health minister Nguyễn Thị Kim Tiến (middle) checks out environment-friendly alternatives to plastic straws. — VNA/VNS Photo

HÀ NỘI — Health minister Nguyễn Thị Kim Tiến has called on the health sector, workers and patients to stop the use of plastic bags and other single-use plastic products at all medical facilities and health management units nationwide.

“Plastic waste is a global problem, causing bad impacts to the environment, sustainable development and human health,” said Tiến. "Addressing this issue requires the collaboration of all levels, sectors, socio-political organisations and the community."

Tiến spoke on the issue to an online conference on minimising plastic waste in the health sector on Friday in Hà Nội.

The minister said plastic waste was created by the daily activities of health workers, patients and their family members and from professional medical activities such as from packaging and storing medicines, chemicals, equipment, medical materials and supplies.

“Most plastic waste is plastic bags that are difficult to decompose, products for packaging and items used by patients to eat and live," said Tiến. "A quick report from some hospitals showed that about 5 per cent of medical waste generated was plastic products, about 22 tonnes per day."

The health minister asked medical facilities and health departments nationwide to focus on raising awareness and changing the behaviour of using plastic bags and other single-use products among health workers, patients and patients' family members.

Hospitals from the local to central level were instructed to review the source, quantity and type of plastic waste and develop a plan to reduce plastic waste without impacting the efficiency and quality of medical services. Other medical facilities were also encouraged to minimise plastic waste.

In the online conference, the health minister and leaders of health departments from 63 provinces and cities signed a joint commitment to reduce plastic waste.

The move is part of the health sector’s efforts to implement Prime Minister Nguyễn Xuân Phúc‘s document No.161/LDCP, released on April 25. The document calls on political organisations, ministries, agencies, committees, local authorities, associations, businesses and the whole community to work together to solve the problem of plastic waste.

Previously, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment launched a "stop plastic waste" movement nationwide to call on the community to change behaviours and habits and encourage the use of biodegradable, reusable and environmentally friendly products.

The UN has estimated that more than 800 species around the world are negatively affected by marine debris, most of which is plastic waste.

According to the European Commission (EC) statistics, an estimated 8.3 billion tonnes of plastic products were produced by 2018. About 6.3 billion tonnes of plastic became waste; and about 5 billion tonnes had accumulated in the environment or been buried. Every year, between 4.8 and 12.7 million tonnes of plastic waste is discharged into the ocean. — VNS

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