Just Put That Anywhere

The day after the final festivities of the Vietnamese New Year, aka Tet, piles of garbage like the one pictured above could be found all over Saigon. Waste disposal is a huge problem in Vietnam — though recycling bins are starting to crop up in certain areas — and the use of plastic bags is egregious. Despite some of the lessons in the books I use at school that contain nuggets of wisdom about the environment and picking up after yourself, the prevailing attitude is that it’s OK to throw your trash on the ground or in the street, or simply let it fall from your hand wherever you are — someone will eventually pick it up. And someone eventually does pick it up, namely teams of sad-faced, orange-clad sanitation workers who probably don’t have the greatest outlook on life. And once it’s picked up it goes to dumps — dumps like the one in Can Tho that was closed at the beginning of the year, according to the state-run Viet Nam News, “due to the serious pollution it has caused the surrounding area.” It’s a dire situation, to say the least, and there are no easy answers. But perhaps Vietnam will see the light — after getting tired of seeing the mess — and take needed measures to change its predominant paradigm about garbage, plastic and the environment.