Retailers team up to reduce consumption of single-use plastic bags

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Eco-friendly bags have replaced single-use plastic bags at Co.opmart. An alliance of 16 retailers have teamed up to stop using plastic bags. VNA/VNS Photo

HÀ NỘI — Supermarkets and shopping centres providing single-use plastic bags to customers will be fined from 2026.

Nguyễn Trung Thắng, vice director of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment’s Institute of Strategy and Policy on Natural Resources and Environment, made the announcement at a conference reviewing a pilot project to establish an alliance of retailers aimed at reducing the consumption of single-use plastic bags in Việt Nam – the Plastic Alliance Project.

Many legal documents have been issued to manage plastic waste, such as Law on Environmental Protection 2020, the Government’s Directive No 33 on strengthening management, reuse, recycling, treatment and reduction of plastic waste, the National Action Plan on Sustainable Consumption and Production in the period of 2021-30, and the Government’s decision on the scheme for strengthening the management of plastic waste in Việt Nam.

A target has been set of using 100 per cent of environmentally friendly plastic bags and packaging at shopping centres and supermarkets for domestic purposes by 2025.

However, the consumption of single-use plastic bags right now remains popular.

A study from the institute shows that about 104,000 single-use plastic bags are consumed on average every day in supermarkets.

Furthermore, 46 out of 48 supermarkets surveyed are providing free nylon bags. On average, each supermarket consumes about 1,454 nylon bags per day.

The Plastic Alliance Project is part of the “Rethinking Plastics – Circular Economy Solutions to Marine Litter in Việt Nam” project funded by the European Union (EU) and the German Government. It brings together retailers to reduce the use of single-use plastic bags, towards protecting the environment and promoting sustainable development in Việt Nam.

The project has 16 enterprises, including Co.opmart, Lotte Mart, AEON Mall and Decathlon, who have committed to replacing non-biodegradable plastic bags with eco-friendly bags, implementing campaigns to encourage customers to say no to single-use plastic bags and encouraging suppliers to use eco-friendly packaging such as recycled paper instead of plastic to package products supplied to the retail chain.

Action plans and communication plans have been implemented at retailers and online on social media platforms to change consumers’ behaviour in reducing the use of plastic bags and single-use products.

Deputy Director of Hà Nội’s Department of Industry and Trade Nguyễn Thế Hiệp said the alliance’s activities have contributed to the implementation of the national action programme on sustainable production and consumption in 2022 in Hà Nội.

“In the near future, we hope the alliance of retailers will be expanded with the participation of more businesses and retailers to reduce plastic bags in Hà Nội and across the country,” he said.

Fanny Quertamp, representative of Expertise France said the project’s communication activities have been widely deployed in various forms, spreading the message of reducing plastic bag consumption to customers.

Representative of Hà Nội-based AEON Mall said the group aims to create a community without single-use plastic bags by facilitating the habit of refusing single-use plastic bags and improving an operation to minimise single-use plastic bags.

Over the past two years, it has collaborated with the institute to boost the message ‘shopping without plastic bags’ at six malls in four cities.

The group has implemented returning bio-plastic bag fees if customers refuse to use it, with a total amount of VNĐ300 million (US$13,064), providing a private counter for customers to say no to plastic bags, improving the packing procedure at the cashier counter to reduce the average number of bags per transactions from five to three, displaying eco-bags in demand-triggered areas and offering free eco-bags for customers with the bill of more than VNĐ300,000 ($12).

By the end of 2021, AEON Vietnam achieved remarkable results. Around 5 per cent of transactions at AEON’s General Merchandising Store & Supermarkets don’t require plastic bags and 89 per cent of employees refuse plastic bags.

At the conference, representatives of enterprises suggested campaigns to reduce the customers’ habit of using single-use plastic bags such as ‘one day without using plastic bags’, and refunding or discounting customers who do not use plastic bags.

The alliance will continue their activities to coordinate with retailers to develop and implement a plan to reduce bags and attract more retailers to join the alliance. — VNS

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