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Cô Tô Island District Says No to Single-Use Plastics From September

With insufficient waste management facilities, many island localities in Vietnam face literal barrages of trash.

Earlier this month, the government of Quảng Ninh Province’s Cô Tô District, which oversees the tiny island, announced that single-use plastic bottles and bags won’t be welcomed on the island starting from September 1, reports VnExpress.

The new policy is targeting tourists as rapid tourism growth has been identified as the biggest cause of environmental degradation on Cô Tô. The campaign to curb plastic use will run on a trial basis for 3–6 months and then take effect officially; Cô Tô authorities task travel agencies and transportation services with informing their clients before entering the island.

Nguyễn Thanh Thái, head of the Office of Culture and Information of the Cô Tô Island District, told the newspaper: “First we want to educate tourists so they will cooperate. If they accidentally brought plastic bottles and bags to the dock, we will ask them to leave those on the boat to be collected when they leave later. On the island, we have ample food and drink with reasonable prices so they won’t need to bring anything. However, if tourists refuse, we can’t forbid them.”

Vietnam has struggled with trash management on a national level for decades with plastic-based rubbish as the most commonplace type, accounting for 94% of all waste in quantity and 71% in weight.

How to tackle household trash is a problem that affects islands more severely than mainland regions as most lack sufficient facilities to incinerate waste. On Côn Đảo Island, for example, an incinerator built in 2014 can only process 5 tons of trash a day, but the local landfill collects 15–20 tons daily, leading to a garbage “mountain” of over 70,000 tons that has grown for the last 20 years.

By saying no to plastic items, Cô Tô is taking the right step in alleviating local waste accumulation, but whether tourists will happily comply remains uncertain. Besides Cô Tô, Cù Lao Chàm in Hội An is also another island-based locality that has shunned single-use plastics, to some success.

Cô Tô is an island district under Quảng Ninh Province in northeastern Vietnam, comprising a number of islands such as Cô Tô Island, Thanh Lân Island and Trần Island. According to the 2019 census, the district has over 6,000 inhabitants. As of July 2022, the islands have welcomed over 162,000 tourists; this is projected to reach 200,000 by the end of the year.

[Photo via Redsvn]

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