Rapid changes in technology, changes in software, falling prices, and planned obsolescence, have resulted in a fast-growing buildup of electronic waste in Viet Nam.
Cam Xa Commune in the northern province of Hung Yen’s My Hao District is considered to be the “e-waste capital of the country”.
E-waste, or electronic waste, describes end-of-life electrical goods, such as computers, televisions, printers, and mobile phones.
According to the deputy chairman of the communal People’s Committee, Nguyen Khac Toan, the work of collecting electronic waste began ten years ago and has developed very quickly.
Today there are more than 100 area households employed in this work, which also provides jobs for hundreds of labourers in the region, he told Thoi Bao Kinh Doanh (Business Times) newspaper.
Every day, dozens of cars and trucks from these households travel throughout the country’s northern areas to collect e-waste.
Hoang Van Son, an owner of an e-waste recycling workshop, said he drives his car to collect the waste in big cities such as Ha Noi, Hai Phong, Quang Ninh and Bac Ninh.
After disassembling and classifying all parts from these products, they are then sold to recycling workshops, private electric repair shops or exported to China, Son added.
However, this collection and disposal are causing a variety of environmental problems, such as groundwater contamination, atmospheric pollution, and water pollution by immediate discharge, as well as health problems, including occupational safety and health effects among those people directly and indirectly involved, due to the methods of processing the waste.
Due to the crude recycling process, many pollutants, such as heavy metals, are released from e-waste, which can easily accumulate in the human body through the inhalation of contaminated air.
“All processes of dismantling and disposing of electric waste are done by hand. The workers use only gloves and gauze masks during their work,” Toan said.
“And all kinds of unused pieces have been discharged directly to the environment, without any treatment, causing serious pollution,” he added.
Electric waste is piled in household gardens, other electronic waste materials are scattered on roads, as well as seen floating atop drainage canals.
According to the General Statistics Office, the growth rate of technology in Viet Nam increases by over 100 per cent each year, along with huge e-waste discharges.
Ha Noi is expected to discard 161,000 TVs, 97,000 PCs, 178,000 refrigerators, 136,000 washing machines and 97,000 air conditioners by 2020. HCM City, meanwhile, predicts even higher disposal rates, with 700,000 TVs, 290,000 PCs, 424,000 refrigerators, 339,000 washing machines and 330,000 air conditioners.
Currently, the collection and treatment of e-waste are limited. Only three out of 15 e-waste treatment facilities are performing at their expected capacity, handling an average of 25-30 tonnes a day. This is a far cry from the estimated 164-309 tonnes in need of treatment.