In addition to the spike in the number of masks and rubber gloves used globally, COVID-19 also harms the marine environment because it increases the amount of single-use plastic consumed worldwide

The oil market collapsed, making plastic cheaper to use than ever. COVID, along with OPEC politics, has contributed to a global crash in the oil markets. Oil and natural gas (the latter of which was already at record low prices pre-COVID) are the key raw materials used to make plastic. Their all-time low cost has increased the price disparity between alternative materials (think cellulose, seaweed) and virgin plastic, which has always been the most inexpensive way to package goods. To be financially competitive in the marketplace, it is now extremely advantageous to package your goods in newly made, cheap virgin plastic.

COVID-19 also drastically changed people’s consumption behaviour. Social distancing has made online shopping familiar to many consumers. According to a survey, during the recent epidemic period, up to 75% of people living in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi used online food buying services. The proliferation of food ordering and delivery has partly led to a significant increase in the amount of plastic waste. Mr Truyen Duy Ngoc, a resident of Go Vap District, Ho Chi Minh City said: “The situation has changed a lot. Instead of going to restaurants and dining out, now I sit at home and order Grab to deliver the food to me. And of course, they only use plastic packaging. Plastic waste in our house keeps increasing more and more.”

Reducing the amount of plastic waste is a considerable challenge, not only for Vietnam but also for every country in the world. Let’s join hands with us to find effective solutions to protect the ocean!