Shopping in Saigon is hardly an eco-friendly experience, but the municipal authorities have vowed to start changing things for the better this year.

According to HCM City’s master plan on plastic waste, the southern metropolis intends to prohibit the use of plastic bags in supermarkets and shopping centres by the end of the year. The plan has it that single-use plastic bags will gradually be removed and replaced with biodegradable alternatives, with buyers also encouraged to alter their shopping habits and make the switch to reusable bags.

Part of a greater effort to phase out single-use plastics at public facilities across the city, the project calls for reduced usage of plastic packaging at schools, hospitals and government offices. It also takes aim at traditional markets, where the use of non-biodegradable bags is to be halved by year’s end – unlike in supermarkets, where such bags are to disappear completely by that time.

About time we all switched to reusable bags, isn't it? / @Canva

In the long run, Saigon officials aim to persuade plastic producers to transition to more eco-friendly products, hoping to cut plastic packaging down to the absolute minimum by 2030. The city has also run a number of campaigns to raise public awareness of the problem, selling them under the slogan of “reduce – reuse – recycle.”

The strategy is in tune with various initiatives launched in Vietnam in recent years, all trying to address the growing problem of plastic pollution across the country. Vietnam’s tourism and fishing industries in particular have been called on to reduce their reliance on disposable plastic and to implement efficient ways of collecting and recycling the great amounts of plastic waste they generate.

Estimates vary but plastic bags are believed to take up to 1,000 years to degrade in a landfill. If they are burnt or left to decompose under sunlight, they release toxic substances into the soil and air.