Cutting Plastic Pollution in Lao Wet Markets

A student from the National University of Laos hand a bamboo basket to a wet market vendor
Thursday  27 February 2020
 
In the last few years, Laos has transitioned from using natural products such as banana leaves and rattan baskets to the more durable, cheap and convenient use of plastic to package food and other purchases. Wet markets are extremely common in Laos and are the most widespread venues for people to buy and sell meat, vegetables and other products. Although traditional forms of packaging still exist, single-use plastic is widely used.
 
A 2008 research study by Social Environment Research Consultants (SERC) estimated that the 600,000 inhabitants of Vientiane use 20 plastic bags a month each, totalling up to 144 million bags a year, and this figure is likely much higher today. It was also estimated that roughly 95% of plastic users didn't know where their plastic bags end up, and less than 15% of the used bags were recycled.
 
To promote efforts to reduce single-use plastic, Oxfam in Laos is currently working with the National University of Laos, Green Vientiane and partners from the public and private sectors on the Cutting Plastic Pollution in Laos (CPPL) project, funded through an innovation grant from Oxfam Novib.
 
CPPL is a pilot project that aims to understand the consumption of plastic bags in wet markets in Vientiane Capital, and to propose suitable alternatives to single-use plastic for vendors and consumers based on data gathered by youth volunteers from the Faculty of Environmental Science at the Laos National University. The research will contribute to the evidence base of future research and policymaking.
 
Oxfam and partners also aim to encourage private sector organisations as well as relevant government authorities to contribute to the research findings and initiate joint action plans for further dialogues on plastic reduction in Laos.
Over the following weeks, Oxfam and partners will conduct awareness-raising and advocacy activities in the wet markets that encourage vendors and consumers to test and provide feedback on plastic alternatives that the teams have proposed. These include cloth and paper bags, as well as bamboo baskets that consumers can use to carry their purchases.
 
Stay tuned to hear about project updates and what alternatives are the most popular!