MUI NE, Vietnam — An afternoon swim in the South China Sea along the southeast coast of Vietnam is not the pleasant experience a visitor might expect. Amid rainbow-colored fishing boats, plastics, of all sizes and forms, bob in emerald waters.
Hotel resort beaches are cleaned meticulously, but it is an endless task. The sea is full of plastics and other solid wastes, which are increasingly showing up in fishing nets. “We pull out more and more plastic when fishing,” a local fisherwoman said, highlighting that marine debris is taking the place of a catch already decimated by overfishing.
Plastic waste fouls tourism jewels across Vietnam’s coast: the UNESCO heritage site of Ha Long Bay, the beaches of Nha Trang and Mui Ne, as well as the southern Phu Quoc Island. Popular travel guides Trip Advisor and Lonely Planet have acknowledged the issue, noting that there is “garbage over garbage” in Mui Ne and that “rubbish blights Vietnam’s popular Phu Quoc Island.”
Vietnam’s coastal waters are not outliers. Globally, at least eight million metric tons of plastic leak into the ocean every year, a number that is projected to increase to 15 million metric tons by 2025. If the projection comes to pass, the ocean could contain one ton of plastic for every three tons of finfish, according to Ocean Conservancy calculations. Research published online July 19 in the journal Science Advances, estimates that three-fifths of all plastic ever produced now sits in landfills, oceans, rivers, forests, or other corners of nature.