Just last week, our social media platforms were flooded with photos and reels of trees and plants, oceans and wildlife to celebrate “Earth Day.” And a month ago, we were all encouraged to unplug unnecessary devices and turn off our lights for an hour, for Earth Hour. While both movements are meant to educate and raise awareness about how much damage the human species is throwing out there, an hour or even a day can’t save us anymore. We got to do more.
Plastic waste is one problem we all can do something to get rid of, or at least minimize. But why does that matter in Vietnam?
On April 24, organized by CHANGE in partnership with Dentsu Redder and funded by EU’s ‘Rethinking Plastics – Circular Economy Solutions to Marine Litter’ project and the BMZ, an odd-looking creature made from plastic waste was revealed to the public.
The monstrous creature dubbed the “Plastic Beast” is covered with 37 kilograms of plastic trash — from junk food wrappers to lotion bottles — which were all, unfortunately, produced by us.
“With the look of a dangerous monster covered in single-use plastic wastes, the creature was the centerpiece of the press conference to launch our newest creative campaign Plastic Beast which aimed to raise awareness and call on the Vietnamese to reduce single-use plastic consumption,” CHANGE founder and executive director Hong Hoang said in a post.
The Plastic Beast is on display at Pandora City until May 5.
While we’re on the topic of saving the earth and limiting the use of plastic, let’s dive a little deeper into how having so much plastic waste affects the Vietnamese people and how Vietnam is hurting the world. Here are 5 hard-hitting facts about the plastic problem in Vietnam.
37 kilograms of plastic waste
The reason why the Plastic Beast weighs 37 kilograms is that an average Vietnamese produces the same amount of plastic waste per year. If you’re wondering how heavy 37 kilograms is, it’s about half as heavy as a beer keg, about three times as heavy as a gold bar, and about eight times as heavy as a cat. If you think a single sheet of plastic won’t do damage, think again.
Vietnam is one of the top 5 plastic waste polluters in the world’s oceans
According to a report by USAID, Vietnam generates approximately 25 million tons of solid waste each year, it is estimated that 10-20% of these wastes are plastic — that’s at least 2.5 million tons. That’s 250 times as heavy as the Eiffel Tower. And unfortunately, the 250 Eiffel Tower’s worth of waste goes to the oceans.
Vietnam is losing at least $2.2 billion a year to inefficient recycling cost
A 2021 study by the International Finance Corporation and World Bank revealed that only 33% of the total 3.9 million tons of the commonly used plastics disposed of per year in Vietnam are recovered and recycled, as reported by VNExpress in September 2021. That means 75% of the material value of plastics – equivalent to $2.2-2.9 billion per year – is lost.
85% of the wastes are buried in landfills
Landfill dumping requires large areas, can contaminate soil and water, and emits climate-relevant methane, carbon dioxide, and odors. Although landfill disposal is an effective waste management system, if not managed correctly, it’s expected to create detrimental environmental impacts. In Vietnam, about 85% of the waste generated is being buried without treatment in landfill sites, 80% of which are unhygienic and pollute the environment, per the Vietnam Waste Management Market (2020 - 2025) report.
Plastic pollution threatens the Mekong
Mekong River is one of the most polluted rivers in the world, transporting an estimated 40 thousand tonnes of plastic into the world's oceans each year. The biodiversity of the Mekong River is the foundation for the food, jobs, and traditions of hundreds of millions of people. Some 60 million people alone rely on the abundant Mekong freshwater fishery for their livelihoods. The next time you stroll along the rivers, may it be the Mekong or Saigon’s, it won’t hurt anyone if you pocket the tiniest piece of trash you have from eating candy.