A Tuoi Tre correspondent was among those who accompanied 47 young environmental leaders from 18 countries on an ecological excursion to Germany’s Leverkusen City to learn about protecting the environment.
The trip, which began last Thursday, was arranged under the aegis of the Bayer Young Envoy Program in partnership with the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP). The Bayer Young Environmental Envoys, selected from over 800 applicants worldwide, showcased their own innovative solutions for sustainable development.
At AVEA, a waste processing facility in the city, consultant Hamid Shakoor took the young leaders to the waste sorting section and showed them large trash bins with labels stating clearly what kind of waste -- glass, wood, electronics, bottles, paper, or metal -- would go into them.
The bins were also differently colored for easier identification indication.
The area was full of cars with people ferrying garbage they had sorted at home.
Most of the envoys were particularly impressed by the large sacks full of wine corks in a corner. Shakoor said they were recycled to reduce the number of oak trees being chopped to make the corks.
“The [cork] collection is mostly done by primary-school students either on a daily or weekly basis, and those bringing the largest number are awarded.” This had been practiced for the last seven years, he said.
On the streets are trash bins with four drawers, and most of the visitors posed beside them for photos.
One drawer each is meant for disposing of packaging, paper, leftover food, and glass and are clearly labeled.
Zhan Hong Low, a delegate from Singapore, said he was impressed by the Germans’ high awareness of the need to sort waste.
The young envoys then boarded Max Prüss, a lab ship tasked with measuring the water quality in the Rhine River and raising the alarm if the river becomes contaminated.
There they saw the crew taking water samples from the river.
Members attending the Bayer Young Envoy Program on the Max Prüss (Photo: Tuoi Tre)
And by the riverbank are solar-powered Lumbricus Ecomobile buses that serve as mobile classrooms providing environmental lessons to children. Lumbricus means earthworm in German.
The buses, covered in funny images and eye-catching colors are well-equipped with furniture and teaching equipment.
Children get environmental lessons before being taken to the river or streams and forests to learn about animals, plants, and soil.
They also get to do interesting things like testing water and air samples and measure noise levels in the city.
“I’m deeply impressed and hope Vietnam will soon have this kind of bus,” Vietnamese envoy Dao Thi Bich Van said.
“Let us assume that each of the 35 million households in Germany used one plastic bag every week and each bag costs EUR0.1,” Hamid Shakoor told the young envoys.
“So Germans would dump 560 tons of plastic every week in the environment.”
The world would soon be flooded with plastic bags if everyone thought that a single bag they used did not have an impact on the environment, he said.
“If they think about the massive quantities of plastic bags disposed of in the environment and the dangerous consequences of this, they will understand the necessity of using environmentally-friendly bags.”
“Green economy” was the first major topic of discussion for the Bayer envoys during the ecological excursion from October 16 to 21. Sheng Fulai, head of the UNEP's Research and Partnership Unit shared with them stories about the “green economy.”
Speaking to Tuoi Tre, he said UNEP described a green economy as one that results in improved human well-being and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities.
Asked about the likelihood of a transition from awareness to action to develop a green economy in Vietnam, he expressed the belief that most people would join in if they were fully aware of the benefits an eco-friendly economy would bring.
Bayer Young Environmental Envoy Program, launched in Asia in 1998, is one of the key elements in an alliance between Bayer and UNEP centering on youth and the environment, primarily focusing on the world’s fast-growing emerging economies. Originally introduced in Thailand, the concept was subsequently extended to Argentina, Brazil, Chile, China, Colombia, Ecuador, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Malaysia, Peru, the Philippines, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Venezuela and Vietnam.