Vietnam faces challenges in management of persistent plastic waste

16:52 | 26/06/2020 Environment

(VEN) - With a volume of nearly 18,000 tonnes of plastic garbage generated a day and 1.8 million tonnes discharged into oceans a year, Vietnam is one of the world’s top five ocean plastic polluters. The management of plastic waste on land to limit the discharge into the oceans under an official action plan adopted six months ago is confronting Vietnam with a major challenge.

vietnam faces challenges in management of persistent plastic waste

Difficulty in management

Vietnam produces twice the amount of plastic waste that low-income countries do. Plastic waste not only destroys the natural environment, but also negatively affects aquatic and marine life. On land, plastic waste is pervasive, seriously affecting human health. Notably, the amount of plastic waste and nylon bags in our country accounts for about 8–12 percent of domestic solid waste.

According to the national environmental status report in 2019, like many countries in the world, nearly 50 percent of plastic products in Vietnam are designed for one-time use and then discarded. Only one part of discarded plastics are then recycled, while the rest is incinerated or buried.

Currently, Vietnam has no specific data on the rate of plastic waste collection but it has data on domestic solid waste collection, including plastic waste and nylon bags. The sorting and collection of recyclable plastic waste is often an initiative of households or garbage/scrap collectors. Most plastic waste from households, markets and public areas is treated like other solid waste, even though the nylon bags in Vietnam are usually ultra-thin and hard to decompose.

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 and recycle plastic waste as an energy source.

Utilizing waste, taxing plastic

In order to manage plastic waste according to the national action plan on ocean plastic waste management 2020, Vietnam first needs to collect data on the current state of plastic waste as well as improve policies, mechanisms and promote scientific solutions to create a data source on plastic waste in the country.

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 Dr. 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 PM Decision No.73/2014/QD-TTg on scrap imports, only allowing import of plastics having high recycling value.

Dr. Thuc also emphasized that Vietnam should consider plastic packages as taxable goods 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.

Thu Huong