Glocal: Global Plastic Pollution with a Local Solution

woman holding plastic wrapping around the globe

Plastic pollution poses an imminent threat to our entire planet. Ocean plastics poison our seas, killing wildlife and destroying ecosystems, some of which we depend upon. Plastic pollution found inland similarly affects our waterways, and microplastics have even been found in our drinking water. No matter where in the world you are, plastic pollution is affecting your life.

When facing such a daunting issue, it can be easy to believe that small changes that you make locally can’t make a real difference. But, you might be able to make more of an impact than you think. Here’s why.

What does it mean to go glocal?

glocal

Glocal—a combination of the words “global” and “local”—is a term that has business roots. It originally described the marketing idea where one uses a local context to introduce global ideas. For the sake of this article, going glocal refers to how our local plastic pollution solutions within Vietnam have a global impact.

Going glocal is a way to be globally minded while focusing on local solutions. We live in a globalized world, and it’s becoming imperative that, while we work to maintain local cultures and ideals, we must also make sure that our decisions are globally beneficial. After all, we share this planet with billions of people, and if we destroy it, we don’t get another chance.

Vietnam’s growing plastic pollution problem

Vietnam litter

While the idea of glocalism is something that all countries need to consider, when it comes to plastic pollution, Vietnam is in a position to make a huge difference.

According to a 2015 study, Vietnam is the fourth largest contributor to plastic pollution in the world. It’s also a world leader in plastic waste imports (plastic exported by countries that do not have the capacity to recycle the plastic waste that they produce), which means that we’ve got a lot of plastic to manage.

Vietnam’s plastic industry is growing quickly; from 2012 to 2017, it increased 11.6% per year compared to 3.9% per year of worldwide growth. In 2017, Vietnam consumed about 5.9 Mt of plastic materials. While many countries are also seeing an increase in their plastic production and consumption, Vietnam is seeing a significantly accelerated climb. Besides this, the majority of solid waste—including plastic waste—is landfilled, and most of these landfills don’t have precautions in place to prevent pollution. So, not only is the amount of plastic pollution in Vietnam increasing, but it’s also poorly managed.

Why Vietnam is a worldwide contributor to plastic pollution

Ocean Bound Plastic - Hon Son - TONTOTON

In order to find a suitable solution to the plastic pollution problem, we must first understand why it became a problem in the first place.

Vietnam has seen major economic, population, and urban growth in the last few decades. While much of this is to be celebrated—the country is becoming more developed, which offers numerous opportunities to its citizens—it also means increased production and use of plastic products. Plastic is inexpensive, convenient, and versatile. This makes it a prime material in a number of industries. However, the waste management systems currently in place cannot handle the growing volume of plastic.

Additionally, there’s a lack of awareness regarding plastic waste, especially among those in rural areas. Many communities will burn, bury, or throw their waste into rivers simply because they do not know the negative effect that plastic and other solid waste has on the environment when managed in these ways. 

Finally, Vietnam’s geography makes it so that plastic that’s improperly managed inland easily makes its way into the ocean. Vietnam is long and skinny, and it boasts 3260 km of coastline. While this is part of what makes Vietnam beautiful and varied, it also provides ample opportunity for waste to enter our waterways. The Mekong River, especially, acts as a highway to the ocean for plastic litter and other waste; it is one of the 10 sources of global marine litter in the world.

While there are effective methods in place in order to remove recyclable plastics from the ecosystem, there are very few methods to remove nonrecyclable plastics. This contributes to the growing number of single-use plastics, like plastic bags, found in our waterways.

How improving Vietnam’s plastic pollution will make a global impact

global impact

It’s really quite simple: once plastic reaches our oceans, it becomes an international scourge.

As shown above, the combination of plastic waste produced in Vietnam and its access to the ocean make Vietnam a prime source of marine plastic and ocean-bound plastic. It’s estimated that by 2050, marine plastic will outnumber marine wildlife. Once plastic reaches our waterways, it takes decades to break down, and as it does so, it poisons the water making it harmful to humans, changing ecosystems, and killing fish and other marine wildlife that many rely upon for food and income. When much of that marine plastic comes from Vietnam, this is a problem.

Following the glocal ideal, we must continue to grow economically while addressing the plastic pollution problem. Vietnam should also work with other ASEAN countries, many of whom also top the plastic pollution list, in order to address this issue. Our waterways are connected, and the Mekong River, which flows through many countries, contributes to a great portion of our marine litter. If we want to make a global change, we must start in Vietnam and other ASEAN countries to address this growing issue.

How you can help address this global problem with TONTOTON

Hai Phong Waste Pickers - TONTOTON

It’s clear, then, that we must do something to address Vietnam’s plastic pollution problem for the local and global environment, but how can it be done? While the answer to this question is not a simple one, and we will have to attack this issue from multiple angles, there is one thing that your company can do today. Invest in plastic credits.

The projects funded through TONTOTON focus on nonrecyclable plastic, which helps fill a major gap in standing waste management systems. Our projects provide an immediate solution for companies looking to adopt sustainable business models. This is a supplementary solution, and we encourage our corporate partners to make additional changes in terms of their plastic waste and sustainability practices. But, it also allows companies to offset their plastic waste now while developing and implementing further strategies.

Our plastic credits allow for continued economic growth while addressing the plastic pollution problem. We also offer support to waste pickers, ensuring that the reduction of plastic pollution in Vietnam is socially, economically, and environmentally responsible.

Purchasing plastic credits through TONTOTON provides a local solution to a global problem. Take your first steps to help save our planet by checking out our plastic credit system today.