When it comes to environmental sustainability, we all know that we need to do a lot more to reduce our plastic consumption. The responsibility falls on us as consumers and as companies.
It is an issue, which the Vietnamese government takes extremely seriously and one that THP wholeheartedly supports. In recent years, the government has launched a number of increasingly stronger measures to curb plastic use, especially single use plastic bags in shops and wet markets.
In 2019, it announced a national action plan to phase plastic bags out by 2025. More recently, this April, the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment announced that retailers would be punished if they continued issuing plastic bags after this date.
However, the fact is that we are still taking baby steps here in Vietnam. A recent survey revealed that 46 out of 48 supermarkets continue handing plastic bags out free of charge.
It is always good to remember just how long it takes for one to break down: about 1,000 years. In Vietnamese history, this is the equivalent of going back in time to the overthrow of Chinese imperial domination and the creation of the first truly independent Vietnamese state under the Ngô Dynasty. This is not a legacy that we should want to leave our descendants over the next millennia.
Unfortunately, Vietnam does not currently rank highly among coastal countries for plastic management. In 2020, US academics calculated that Vietnam mismanages 64% of its plastic waste based on solid waste data reported by the World Bank.
This was higher than both Indonesia and Thailand on 62%. It was also far above countries such as the US on 2.33% and Japan 15%.
As Vietnam’s largest healthy drinks company, THP should be at the forefront of turning this statistic around. And we are.
The desire to act is enshrined in our second core value: Responsibility to Community and Society.
Starting to act was step one. We have now reached step two: accelerating our plastic waste management.
Between 2013 and 2018, for example, we reduced our plastic waste by 20,000 tons. But in the five years since then, we have more than doubled that to 50,000 tons.
One key initiative was reducing bottle weights from 27g in 2013 to 15.6g. We now lead Asia in this metric.
The positive environmental impact reverberates all the way through our value chain. When we manufacture lighter bottles, we use less water, less energy and generate less pollution – less sulphur dioxide, less nitrogen oxide, less carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide. We also produced less solid waste such as coal ash.
And it does not just stop there. Lighter bottles means we can pack more onto a single truck. Fewer trucks generate less pollution as they transport our drinks from the factory to the shop floor. Better business efficiency can serve good environmental ends.
But the most important change flows from our circular economy initiative, principally recycling plastic bottles once consumers have enjoyed the contents. In October 2021, we invested VND 100 billion (US$4.3 million) to build our first plastic recycling plant (it also has a solar roof) attached to our Number One Hau Giang factory, north of Can Tho in South West Vietnam.
During phase 1, we have the capacity to re-cycle 3,600 tons of plastic bottles per year and we are also open to serving other companies. These materials have many different potential end-uses from pallets to plastic pipes.
Every single plastic bottle that we save from ending up in a landfill site will help to preserve Vietnam’s bio-diversity and landscapes. Every single one that we re-cycle will help to promote Vietnam’s ongoing economic growth.