A Supermarket Alliance to Reduce Single-Use Plastic Bags
An average supermarket in Hanoi gives out more than 100,000 plastic bags every day. This number is rising, with dramatic consequences not only for the environment, but also for Vietnam’s waste management system.
As with half of all plastic products, plastic bags are usually used only once and then discarded. Minimising this plastic pollution is vital. In 2018, the Vietnamese government decided to switch to environmentally friendly bags, such as biodegradable or reusable bags, by 2025 (National Strategy on Integrated Management of Solid Waste). This pilot project helps to make this policy a reality: together with partners in government, supermarkets and retailers, we have initiated an alliance to promote alternatives to single-use plastic bags and encourage consumers to re-think the way they shop.
WHAT HAVE WE ACHIEVED IN 13 MONTHS?
- The Alliance of Retailers strikes
We have partnered with 16 retailers who operate 117 stores in Hanoi – from AEON and Big C to MegaMarket, Co.opmart and Decathlon. The Alliance of Retailers jointly developed an action plan, in which they committed themselves to reduce and replace single-use plastic bags. They encourage suppliers and consumers to use eco-friendly packaging and bags instead of plastic.
- Changing the way consumers shop
AEON deducts 1,000 Vietnamese Dong from each shopping bill when customers bring their own shopping bags, while Co.opmart awards every member 5 bonus points when they reuse their environmental bags. Alliance members use these and other promotional activities to help consumers change their shopping habits. Free reusable shopping bags encourage customers to join the green shopping scheme and a monthly “No plastic-bags day” has been introduced to remind them to bring their bags when shopping.
Beyond such in-store activities, the Alliance of Retailers has teamed up with other organisations and partners to reach consumers online. On the fan page “Let’s reduce plastic waste”, more than one million people were reached with the singing contest “Disappearing bags”, (live) streams of video clips and a photo exhibition “green bags for shopping”.
WHAT HAVE WE LEARNED FROM THE PILOT PROJECT?
- Facilitation to bring businesses together and support plans, as well as policy dialogue and support, are key – in our project we liaised with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MONRE), Ministry of Industry and Trade (MOIT) and Department of Trade and Industry (DOIT) of Hanoi.
- Motivating and inspiring activities are crucial to get initiatives and partners mobilised and have a broad impact. Forming synergies between project partners is vital to ensure consistent activities.
- There were and will be times when businesses have to prioritise other activities, such as during Christmas or COVID-peaks. Thus, facilitation and close consultation with businesses, strong support from government offices, and sufficient time is needed to form a functioning alliance. Active participation of businesses is important for continuous ownership.
HOW WILL THE ALLIANCE TAKE THIS INITIATIVE FURTHER?
- The Institute of Strategy and Policy on Natural Resources and Environment (ISPONRE) and political partners will continue to collaborate with the Alliance of Retailers to proceed further with the implementation of the Action Plan.
Suggestions for the next steps:
- It is recommended to expand the number of Alliance members and its geographic area in Vietnam.
- Workshops should be organised to share experiences among the retailers.
- To fund Alliance activities, workshops could be integrated into the corporate social responsibility strategies of each member organisation.
Implemented by: Institute of Strategy and Policy on Natural Resources and Environment (ISPONRE)
Facebook page: Plastic Alliance Project | Facebook