Vietnam: Say NO to plastic bags for a prosperous Year of the Dragon

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Pop singer Ngoc Khue and MC My Linh, along with 80 volunteers, took part in a flash mob to support the ‘I Hate Nylon’ project.

These days, when most people in Vietnam stay home to celebrate the Lunar New Year (locally known as Tet holiday), hundreds of Vietnamese youth flocked to the streets of Hanoi, the country’s capital, to work on a community project to reduce plastic bag usage in the city.

The ‘I Hate Nylon’ project (plastic bags are commonly called nylon bags in Vietnam) aims to raise Vietnamese people’s awareness about the dangers of plastic bag usage through several community activities before the Lunar New Year, the biggest holiday in Vietnam when people consume a lot of plastic bags.

The project kicked off on “Kitchen Gods Day” in Vietnam, falling on January 16 in the Julian calendar. Vietnamese people believe that on that day, Kitchen Gods will ride a fish to heaven to report to God about what their host families have done during the last year. Each family often releases three fish and altar ash to a lake nearby their house. In the past, people used bowls to keep the fish. However, now they prefer using plastic bags to carry the fish. It was observed that after the annual tradition of “Kitchen Gods Day”, a lot of plastic bags were thrown into many lakes in Hanoi. On this occasion last week, two community ambassadors – popular singer Ngoc Khue and MC My Linh including 80 volunteers of the project took part in a flash mob dance and a roll call.  Riding their bicycles around the city’s center, they carried the project’s key message “Nylon is not cool” on their T-shirts and flags.

Afterwards, around 300 volunteers worked at seven lakes in the city for 12 hours asking people not to throw plastic bags into the lake after releasing fish. Each volunteer, with the slogan "Nylon is not Cool" on their uniform, carried a small eco bag and introduced it as an alternative solution to plastic bags. While many people agreed with the volunteers, some completely ignored them.

Since its invention more than half a century ago, plastic bags have become an important part of our daily life. We use them on a daily basis for shopping, packing, etc. It is cheap, durable and convenient – sounds like a great solution for all. But it is not actually. The nylon bag materials themselves are not poisonous, however, during the production process, lots of chemicals of have been added to the bags. Many kinds of food in high temperature can absorb these chemicals, which might cause cancer for people who consume it. In addition, it takes 500 to 1.000 years to fully degrade a plastic bag and only 1 percent of millions of nylon bags released into the environment everyday are recycled. “White pollution” is the term to describe the pollution due to plastic bags. Due to the long time it takes to disintegrate, plastic bags under the soil constrain the growth of trees, and increase the disintegration time of garbage contained in nylon bags. Plastic bags stuck in the city’s sanitation and drainage system might choke up the system, which can result in inundation.

We, a youth group in Hanoi, truly believe that now it is time for Vietnamese people to get rid of the old habit of using plastic bags and seek out more environment-friendly choices. Green Tet is just a small part of a series of things that we want to do for the city. After two weeks of celebrating the Lunar New Year Holiday, we will sit together with a new plan on the table, a plan for 2012: Year of the Dragron – the Year of Development. 

Happy New Year and live a green life, everyone!

The author is the Program Director of Raising Awareness on Environment and Climate Change Program managed by a youth community group in Hanoi, Vietnam. In January 2012, they implemented the Green Tet Project in Hanoi to call for reducing plastic bag usage in the city.


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