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Vietnam struggles with plastic waste management

22 Jun 2020

With daily plastic waste of approximately 18,000 tonnes, Vietnam is one of the world’s top five dischargers of waste into the sea, at 1.8 million tonnes annually. Its action plan on ocean plastic waste management, adopted at a prime ministerial decision in December 2019, is presenting the country with a significant challenge.

Boosting recycling

Nylon bags and plastic products account for about eight to 12 percent of domestic solid waste. In fact, Vietnam produces twice the amount of plastic waste of low-income countries. Plastic waste not only destroys the natural environment and negatively affects aquatic and marine life, it also seriously affects human health.

According to the national environmental status report in 2019, nearly 50 percent of plastic products in Vietnam as well as many countries around the world are designed for one-time use and then discarded. Only one part of discarded plastics are then recycled, while the rest is incinerated and/or buried. Nylon bags, especially prevalent in Vietnam, are usually ultra-thin and hard to decompose.

The sorting and collection of recyclable plastic waste is often spontaneous at the household level, but most plastic waste from households, markets and industrial areas is treated like other solid waste. Public awareness of the importance of collecting, disposing, transporting and treating plastic waste and nylon bags is limited. At the same time, the management and treatment of domestic solid waste is not focused on solutions to minimize, reuse, recycle, and energy recovery.

According to scientists, in order for plastic waste management to achieve the goal according to the national action plan on ocean plastic waste management, Vietnam first needs to collect data on the current state of plastic waste as well as improve policies, mechanisms and promote scientific solutions.

Boosting environmental industry market

The environmental industry market must also be promoted given the current low economic value of recycling. Utilizing waste as raw material for production and energy not only increases economic growth but also reduces the exploitation of non-renewable resources and fuels. Domestic solid waste, especially, is a potential source of recyclable components with high economic value.

According to Hoang Van Thuc, Deputy Director General of the Vietnam Environment Administration, Vietnam must raise public awareness, develop recycling and plastic waste treatment technology, and apply new materials to replace nylon bags. It must also carry out a 2014 prime ministerial decision on scrap imports, only allowing import of plastics having high recycling value.

Thuc also emphasized that Vietnam should consider plastic packages as taxable objects and raise tax rates to limit their production and use. In addition, an environmental protection tax should be imposed on nylon bags while environmentally friendly nylon bags should be exempted from environmental protection tax. Authorities should provide incentives for production and consumption of eco-friendly products to replace plastic products, and inspections and sanctions must be enforced to limit harmful plastic waste.

Source: Vietnam Economic News

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