The recent increase in plastic waste to the ocean has threatened marine life. Predictions indicate that the ocean will have more plastics than fish by 2050. Half of the ocean plastics are estimated to be coming from Asia. The amount is predicted to increase rapidly in the upcoming years as the plastic use by Asian countries is expected to increase by 80% in the next 10 years and exceed the 200 million ton threshold by 2025. Further, population growth and demographic transitions are pronounced as evidenced by the 30 megacities that will exist in Asia-Pacific by 2030. Vietnam is among the top five countries that discard plastics to the ocean. As a result, mixtures of fish and plastic wastes (1fish-3plastic items) have been recently reported by Vietnamese fishermen.
After entering the environment, plastics can become lodged in the digestive systems of animals, leading to impairment or death or can also absorb toxins already in the water and spread them through the marine food web, and possibly to humans. Therefore, action to reduce plastic waste to the world ocean from Asia is urgently needed.
Among the solutions for plastic pollution, changing the mindset and behavior of people through education is very important. This solution would be more effective in developing countries where public awareness about the environment is still at a level that needs to be increased. For Vietnam, recent rapid industrial and economic development has increased pressure on the environment. Solid waste containing plastics is one of the environmental challenges for Vietnam. Although plastic recycling has been done in Vietnam, it is more effective in urban areas than in rural regions where two-thirds of the Vietnamese people live. Propagation of stopping/reducing the use of single-use or non-recycled plastic products and anti-plastic waste campaigns have appeared in Vietnam but these are not very effective because people, especially in rural areas, don’t realize the negative impacts of plastic pollution. Many communities living along the 3,200km coastline of Vietnam still dump solid waste on open landfills near beaches and rivers or directly to rivers and the ocean. Most people living along the coast of Vietnam are fishermen. Their income is usually low and together with limited knowledge about the environmental impact of plastic pollution, they tend to refuse to pay for waste processing. This makes it difficult to develop waste processing facilities. Therefore, enhancing education to increase environmental awareness and understanding the impact of plastics pollution to people residing along the coast of Vietnam would help change their thinking and reduce plastic waste to the ocean.
The education system in Vietnam is regulated and delivered by the government. There is no dedication to environmental education in schools. Education on the environment from family is also lacking. This doesn’t foster an understanding of interconnections among the natural environment and the daily life of younger generations. To solve this problem, enhancing environmental education to young generations of Vietnam is vitally important.