On Saturday, May 5th 2012, a youth event on “Say NO to Plastic Bags – Reducing plastic bag usage to save our planet!” was organized by Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung (RLS) with the support of the Vietnam Green Generation Network and Centre of Live&Learn. Following the Earth Song Concert in mid-March, this event further strengthens youth’s awareness and action to protect our environment and to respond to climate change. It brought together above 50 participants, including college students, NGO staff, government officials, journalists and individuals interested in waste management and climate change issues. The three guest speakers invited were Mr. Nguyen Quoc Tuan – Head of Planning Department, Nam Son Waste Management Enterprise (URENCO 8); Mr. Kieu Cong Thuoc – Deputy Managing Director of High Technology Investment Joint Stock Company and Mr. Hoang Duc Minh – Group leader of “I hate Nylon Project”
Since its invention more than half a century ago, plastic bags have become an important part of our daily life. People use them on a daily basis for shopping, packing, etc. They are cheap, durable and convenient – they sound like a great solution for all. But they are not actually. The nylon bag materials themselves are not poisonous, however, during the production process; lots of chemicals are added to the bags. Many kinds of food in high temperature can absorb these chemicals, which might cause cancer for people who consume it. In addition, it takes 500 to 1.000 years to fully degrade a plastic bag and only 1 percent of millions of nylon bags released into the environment everyday are recycled. “White pollution” is the term to describe the pollution due to plastic bags. Due to the long time it takes to disintegrate, plastic bags under the soil constrain the growth of trees, and increase the disintegration time of garbage contained in nylon bags. Plastic bags stuck in the city’s sanitation and drainage system might choke up the system, which can result in inundation.
The event was designed in a dialogue format, which involved guest speakers and audience in an exchange to analyze plastic waste issues from different perspectives. In the first session, Hoai Anh – a student from the Banking Academy introduced an overview of plastic waste and its impact on the environment. She highlighted the danger plastic bags are posing to our environment, therefore Hai Anh called for behavior change and practical action to better the situation.
Then, Mr. Nguyen Quoc Tuan from Nam Son Landfill shared with the participants the waste management process. He says that the waste amount (household waste including plastic bags) has increased dramatically in recent years and that this exceeds the capacity of Nam Son Landfill. With a current amount of 4,000 tons of trash per day, it is projected that the landfill must be closed by the end of 2013. A roadmap to upgrade and apply new technology from the government is strongly needed, as he points out.
Given the serious problem of plastic waste treatment, Mr. Kieu Cong Thuoc from High Technology Investment JSC then presented a solution that his company is currently developing. They are new types of plastic, which takes less time to degrade and are more friendly to our environment.
In the closing session, Hoang Duc Minh introduced the ‘I Hate Nylon’ project – a youth-led solution that aims at raising people’s awareness about the dangers of plastic bag usage through community activities. He announced a research that his group has conducted on public habits on plastic bags usage. The research provides suggestion to both plastic bag producers and consumers.