Fish and Plastic on Kitchen God Day in Vietnam

Publié par : Allison Wilson

When I spoke with Doug Snyder, the general director of Keep Hanoi Clean, he mentioned that he believes the plastic pollution problem in Hanoi is urgent, considering they are the fourth largest contributor of ocean plastic pollution in the world. Plastic is seen everywhere in Hanoi; on the side of the road, in the rivers, in parks. Plastics that are left on the streets in Hanoi, and more directly, plastics thrown into the river on Kitchen God Day, eventually make their way to the Ocean. This year, Doug pointed out that 267kg of plastic bags were collected on Kitchen God Day. He stressed the importance of education and awareness in dealing with the issue. It’s not necessarily the cleanup event that is targeting the problem, but the inspiration and engagement that comes along with it. As Doug says, more focus needs to be put on mitigation and reducing the consumption of plastic in the first place.

Plastic is an extremely convenient material because it is cheap, easy to make, light, and easy for “on the go”. A 2018 report written by the United Nations Environmentfound that most of the plastic that ends up in Vietnam’s waterways and oceans is single-use, including plastic drinking bottles, plastic bottle caps, straws, and plastic bags. There are a number of problems that arise from plastic. For example, it is found to block the airways of numerous species that have ingested it, such as turtles and dolphins, and by 2050, it is estimated that about 99% of seabirds will have ingested plastic. Plastic also contains toxic chemicals that can eventually end up in the human food chain. In low- and middle-income regions, such as Vietnam, many households burn their garbage, as a result of poor waste management systems, which often contains lots of plastic, which can further expose them to toxic emissions. This is something I have seen multiple times: piles of garbage burning on the side of the road with thick black smoke being released into the air. After participating in the event for Keep Hanoi Clean, I was interested to know how Kitchen God Day is accelerating the problem of plastic, and what can be done about it.

As we held our signs, we received hundreds of high-fives and thumbs up, which reinforced the idea that education and awareness is the first step, and provided me with hope that in the future, we may see less plastic in our oceans.

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