Consumption tax proposed as Vietnam struggles to fight plastic bag use

By Minh Minh   November 15, 2019 | 12:37 am PT
Consumption tax proposed as Vietnam struggles to fight plastic bag use
Plastic bags and other trash are dumped on a street in Ho Chi Minh City, July 2018. Photo by VnExpress/Thanh Nguyen.
Plastic bags should be made more expensive so that people can be dissuaded from using them, a deputy minister has proposed.

The highest tax rate for single-use plastic bags is VND50,000 (around $2) per kilo and "that’s not enough," said Deputy Minister of Environment and Natural Resources Vo Tuan Nhan.

The ministry estimated that each Vietnamese family consumes five to seven plastic bags per day.

"This is because plastic bags are not only convenient but really cheap," Nhan said at a conference on Thursday in Hanoi.

"At any wet market in Vietnam, we can see that even before buyers ask for it, vendors have already the purchased good in a plastic bag. And in many cases, that will go it a bigger plastic bag and in the end several plastic bags go into an evener bigger one. Finally, buyers take home products wrapped in plastic inside plastic."

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, Vietnam discards over 1.8 million tons of plastic waste but just 27 percent is recycled.

Ranked fourth in the list of nations dumping plastic waste in the ocean by the United Nations Environment Program, the nation generates around 2,500 tons of plastic waste daily.

Each Vietnamese person consumed only 3.8 kg of plastic in 1990, but 28 years later, this had risen to 41.3 kg, according to a report released in September by Ipsos Business Consulting, a global growth strategy consulting firm based in Paris.

Nhan said: "If we fail to control the consumption of plastic products in general and plastic bags in particular, it will become a threat to stable development and affect human health."

"Even when the rising use of plastics is linked to economic development, it cannot make up for environment pollution and the damage that Vietnam’s image will suffer in the international community," the deputy minister said.

Nhan noted it was necessary to change consumer's habits and suggested a consumption tax on plastic bags. He did not elaborate, but added the tax by itself would not solve the problem.

Other campaigns were needed alongside bold steps to limit the use of plastics, including a possible ban on all persistent plastics and disposable plastic bags and heavy tariffs imposed on companies creating large amount of plastic.

"...Producers will have to look for greener solutions to replace plastics," he said.

Nhan's ministry will continue to look at suitable policies and regulations to encourage consumers to limit the use of plastics.

Preferential treatments such as tax exemption for producers making environmentally friendly products should be considered, he said.

Southeast Asian countries, among the world's worst ocean polluters, need tougher regulations on plastic packaging, the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) said in a report Wednesday.

Southeast Asia, home to 641 million people across 10 countries, needs to introduce region-wide policies to regulate plastic packaging, it said.

Vietnam has so far this year taken several measures to tackle its plastic problem.

Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc launched a campaign to fight against plastic waste in June with targets to achieve zero disposable plastic use in urban shops, markets and supermarkets by 2021 and extend it nationwide by 2025.

Last month, the nation’s economic hub Ho Chi Minh City ordered all supermarkets, shopping malls, convenience stories and bookstores to replace plastic bags with environmentally friendly options by 2020.

Tourism hotspot ancient town Hoi An has begun restricting the use of single-use plastic items and plastic bags. By the end of 2021, plastic bags and other single-use plastic items will not be used in traditional markets and supermarkets in the town.

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