Among more than 500 businesses producing plastic bags in Vietnam, only about 30 have environmental-friendly certificates issued by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment.
Workers produces biodegradable bags at a Vietnamese company. Photo: T.T.D.
A Vietnamese enterprise produced biodegradable bags made from starch and supplied to the country’s market from 2018, but it seems to encounter many barriers, local media reported.
Compared to the popular plastic bags on the market, biodegradable bags require more sophisticated machines and higher-skilled staff for production.
However, with 100% raw materials imported from Germany, strict production processes and fully bio-degradable microbiological standards, the cost for these products is 2.5 times higher than that of the plastic products.
"This is a big barrier for us to make products accessible to every family, every citizen, so this is only an investment phase and a foundation for a clean future of Vietnam," a representative from the enterprise said.
Regulations on environmental pollution control with nonbiodegradable plastic bags have been in place since 2013, but Vietnam is one of the top five countries that cause global plastic pollution, contributing to nearly 13 million tons dumped into the ocean each year, according to a recent report by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
The Vietnam Plastics Association (VPA)’s statistics showed that in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City alone, the amount of plastic bags consumed is about 25,000 tons per month, excluding eight billion plastic straws used for liquid milk box.
At supermarkets, the perception of sellers and consumers about environmentally-friendly products has seen positive changes in recent years. However, many consumers still hesitate between spending money to buy biodegradable bags or keep using plastic bags.
VPA’s President Ho Duc Lam said that among more than 500 businesses producing plastic bags in Vietnam, only about 30 enterprises have environmental-friendly certificates issued by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, and their bio-degradable bags are mainly for export only.
Most of the rest are small and medium enterprises, specializing in producing plastic bags (hardly decomposable) to supply to the domestic market, Lam added.
This is a huge source of plastic waste, but enterprises still do not have a solution. "Only a few businesses have produced and sold biodegradable bags in the domestic market. Supermarkets and commercial centers are their only clients as they cannot sell the bags in traditional markets or grocery stores due to poor perception of sellers and consumers on plastic pollution," Lam stressed.
"Plastic bags are low-cost because they are made of low-grade recycled plastic materials, with no additional cost for additives to decompose," the leader of a plastic company said.
According to Tran Viet Anh, general director of Nam Thai Son Import-Export Joint Stock Company, Vietnam still lacks recycling plants with modern processing technology and raw materials to produce environmentally-friendly bags to replace plastic bags.
Producers for environmentally-friendly products have not benefited from any support policies by the Vietnamese government. "This is the reason why the businesses do not want to produce biodegradable bags," Anh explained.
In early and late April, PM Nguyen Xuan Phuc released two documents noting that plastic waste is a ‘burning issue’ and calling all people to join forces to settle the problem.