Viet Nam News
by An Phương
Of the 23 people that I have had a discussion with on reducing plastic usage, 20 recognised that excessive plastic consumption is a major problem, and some of them have actually taken action to curb consumers’ habit of using disposable plastic straws and bags.
This put a smile on my face as more fish are being saved! This may sound superficial, yet a significant amount of non-recycled plastic waste ending up in the ocean threatens the natural habitat of numerous marine animals every year.
Plastic, though being an incredibly affordable and useful material, is composed of major toxic pollutants.
As it does not biodegrade, it just sits and accumulates, causing water, air and land pollution.
According to an article in Forbes magazine, Việt Nam is one of five countries generating the most ocean waste, dumping about 1.8 million tonnes of trash every year.
China, Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand and Việt Nam are responsible for dumping more plastic into the ocean than the rest of the world combined, the article says.
“I had never realised plastic was one of the greatest environmental challenges facing the world until I saw a photo which captured how much plastic was found in a whale’s stomach. It has haunted me ever since,” my friend Jun Vũ told me.
“It’s sad how marine animals are starving as they find nothing to eat but plastic waste,” he said.
Minh Anh, another friend of mine, saw a video of a sea turtle with a plastic straw sticking out of its nostril.
She said that she could feel its pain and that straws were not harmless as they look.
“Though I’ve always been environmentally conscious, I haven’t acted as seriously as I thought. I haven’t always refused plastic bags and I ignored my friends when they asked for plastic bags to share their goods when they visited the supermarket,” she added.
I appreciate people’s awareness, but this answer has sparked a concern that among us, how many people actually do something for the environment?
Tuấn Đức, another friend of mine, said that many of his friends, though, had adopted the beliefs of the anti-straw movement and bought alternative solutions like reusable bamboo, stainless steel, and glass straws. But he said they quit using them after two weeks.
“It requires a lot of effort to bring along a straw and wash it each time after we finish using it, not to mention that not everywhere has a sink,” Đức said, adding that his friends tend to lose their straws after three days.
“I’m still bringing my own straw, but to be honest, straw elimination is not an optimal solution, especially when people are so used to taking straws and straws are conveniently offered everywhere,” he said.
I agreed with Đức and believed that the plastic straw elimination movement should start at the places that produce or carry them.
In a recent news release, Starbucks, one of the world’s largest coffee giants, claimed that it would eliminate plastic straws in more than 28,000 company-operated and licensed stores by 2020.
“Starbucks has designed, developed and manufactured a strawless lid, which will become the standard for all iced coffee, tea and espresso beverages,” it said.
Straws made of paper or compostable plastic would be available upon request, it added.
“This, of course, can’t tackle the whole global situation but at least we saw some efforts from an enormous firm, which can probably inspire local coffee chains to catch on,” Đức said.
In Việt Nam, particularly in HCM City, I’ve seen some restaurants and coffee shops, mostly owned by young entrepreneurs or foreigners, work hard to reduce their plastic footprint.
The Organik House, Marou Maison, Quán Bụi and Cục Gạch Quán are some notable examples.
“I admitted that I couldn’t refuse plastic straws but I try to bring along my canvas tote all the time,” Minh Anh said.
Bravo, Minh Anh! A canvas tote can be used to replace plastic bags and also counts as a practical solution to cut down on plastic consumption.
I am also a great fan of canvas totes and I have a great collection of them, which come in different colours and designs to match my outfits.
A canvas tote is a great alternative to a plastic bag as it is not only reusable but also fashionable and easy to carry every day!
“These days, plastic totes are also trendy! Though they’re plastic, they can be used for a long time,” Minh Anh said.
All in all, people have different ways of going plastic-free.
I feel so glad that the anti-plastic movement has reached more and more city locals, at least people I know, via both word-of-mouth and professional educational campaigns.
Some weeks ago, a large banner that said (loosely translated) “Please be considerate of your plastic consumption” could be seen in Takashimaya shopping mall downtown, while many local shops like The Craft House have started selling bamboo straws, displaying a similar message of saving the environment, right on their shelves.
I’m quite positive about the future. — VNS