Banana leaves are used to wrap vegetables at a supermarket (Photo: VNA)

Hanoi (VNA) – More than 600 nationwide supermarkets and convenience stores of the Saigon Union of Trading Cooperatives (Saigon Co.op) have taken the leap to remove all plastic straws from their shelves this month.

This is the first retail system in Vietnam to stop selling plastic straws.

Deputy Director General of Saigon Co.op Nguyen Anh Duc said that in the long run, his firm will also remove plastic straws attached to its private label products. It will ask retailers inside its stores to minimise the use of plastic straws.

Saigon Co.op is also replacing plastic bags with banana leaves as an environmentally-friendly material to wrap food, he added.

In 2011, the firm became the first to replace single-use plastic bags with bio-degradable ones.

The Ministry of Industry and Trade said the use of bio-degradable bags and banana leaves to wrap food is amongst the significant efforts by Saigon Co.op to reduce the quantity of plastic bags in circulation to help protect the environment.

Many countries like the US, the Republic of Korea, and China have banned or issued a roadmap for prohibiting the use of this type of plastic product.

In Vietnam, the Government has imposed an environmental tax rate of 100-250 percent of the production cost of 1 kg of single-use plastic bags. However, problems in tax collection have hampered the development of bio-degradable bag producers.

According to international organisations, Vietnam is one of Asia’s five worst polluters of ocean plastic waste. With 13 million tonnes of waste released into the ocean every year, the country ranks 17th in the world for ocean plastic waste pollution.

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment estimated that a staggering 80 tonnes of plastic waste and bags are thrown away every day in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City alone.

The ministry aimed to reduce 65 percent of single-use plastic bags used at supermarkets and shopping malls by 2020 compared to 2010. Vietnam hopes to eliminate disposable plastic bags by 2026. –VNA