Healthcare sector going plastic-free

16:35 | 20/08/2019
In light of the Ministry of Health’s strong new ­policy on plastic waste ­reduction, hospitals and companies across Vietnam are taking concrete actions, but the path to fulfil the ambitious 2025 target of no single-use plastics will require fundamental changes.
healthcare sector going plastic free
Concrete steps are being taken to achieve Vietnam’s zero single-use plastic goal, Photo: Le Toan

At last week’s online conference held by the Ministry of Health (MoH) on taking measures to lower plastic waste in the healthcare sector, a number of commitments were signed between leaders and hospitals to work towards reduction.

healthcare sector going plastic free
Minister of Health Nguyen Thi Kim Tien and Minister of of Natural Resources and Environment Nguyen Hong Ha visited a booth showcasing the environmentally friendly products.

Accordingly, Minister of Health Nguyen Thi Kim Tien and central-level hospitals namely Viet Duc University Hospital, K Hospital, Bach Mai Hospital, and Hanoi School of Public Health (HSPH) signed commitments towards the ambition.

The event, in line with the prime minister’s call made in May, demonstrated the MoH’s strong determination to cut the volume of plastic waste in the healthcare sector in the future amid serious impacts on the environment and human health.

“Vietnam discharges 1.8 million tonnes of plastic waste into the environment each year, ranking it among the top five in Asia and 17th globally. Vietnam recognises this issue and has taken concrete actions on this. Today’s event is another critical action from the government,” said a representative of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

healthcare sector going plastic free
The biodegradable bag is introduced at the Ministry of Health on August 15 as the ministry held an online conference with 63 cities and provinces on taking measures to lower plastic waste in the healthcare sector.
healthcare sector going plastic free
Bags made from paper, products from Thinh Dat International JSC

Medical waste is always a complex problem in many hospitals in Vietnam. Patients, family members, and hospital services discharge up to a tonne of waste a day. These include plastic bags and plastic straws, for example, and many types of waste that cannot be disintegrated or recycled.

In this view, hospitals and companies in Vietnam have attempted to come up with solutions. Thus far, 28 hospitals and 12 other health units in Ho Chi Minh City have launched programmes to cut plastic waste, including replacing plastic products such as bottles, dishes, and straws with environmentally-friendly equivalents.

In the northern region, 55 health facilities in Haiphong have joined the efforts. By mid-May, they collected and treated over 2,200 cubic metres of waste and organised hundreds of training sessions to raise awareness.

In the central region, Hue Central Hospital is an outstanding example. It focused on purchasing environmentally-friendly medical equipment and replacing plastic products with recycled versions. The hospital sees a huge volume of waste, including plastic waste.

Along with healthcare facilities, companies in Vietnam are also heading towards the manufacturing of environmentally-friendly products to meet growing demands. Groups such as Thinh Dat International JSC, Taha Vietnam Trading and Production Co., Ltd., KeGo, and Vietnam Bamboo Straws are among the new successful names leading the trend.

healthcare sector going plastic free

Phong Nguyen, founder of Ecolution Vietnam, told VIR, “Facing the alarming situation of plastic waste globally and in Vietnam in particular, I decided to start a green business.

The company’s bamboo straws and clothes bags are now exported to Australia and to more demanding markets like the US.”

Elsewhere, Thinh Dat International also began its green business path three years ago by making eco-friendly and recycled products from qualified paper which vary from gift boxes to pencil cases and backpacks.

healthcare sector going plastic free

"Three years ago, our company began researching and developing environmentally-friendly products made of paper, including eco and recycle products.

More specifically, we aim at a green school system and green fashion. Our products are varied, from gift boxes, covers, packaging, to pencil case, bags, backpacks which all made from paper, and I hope the market will welcome these products ", said Pham Ngoc Long-director of Thinh Dat International

Seeing the growing local demand, Taha Vietnam has been established six months ago and has invested in a factory to produce several hundreds of paper straws each month. In addition to paper straws, the company will produce paper cups to diversify their products.

healthcare sector going plastic free

“Together with local consumption, we are going to export to the EU, including France and Germany, in the months to come,” said Vo Thi Phuong Thuy, sales manager at Taha Vietnam.

“Other partners from the United States and Japan are also showing interest in our paper straws and we are in the process of negotiating and completing legal procedures for export.”

Industry insiders said that the moves are significant and important. However, because plastic is multifunctional ­material, light, durable, and is reasonably priced, a full-scale replacement towards environmentally-friendly products will take time and vast sums of money. According to some hospital ­reports, around 5 per cent of medical waste is in the form of plastic, at about 22 tonnes daily.

To achieve the government’s target of zero single-use plastic products in the country by 2025, it will require large-scale habit changes, strong efforts, and huge financial capacity.

By Tung Anh

Based on MasterCMS Ultimate Edition Ver 2.8 2018