Plastic waste is a resource that needs to be collected, sorted and recycled. Non-reusable solid waste (including plastic waste) should be moved to a waste treatment plant, said a representative from the Ministry of Construction.
Mai Thị Liên Hương, director of the Technical Infrastructure Department under the Ministry of Construction said, “We can’t separate plastic waste management from solid waste management.”
She stressed that plastic waste was a big problem and the country was working on a plan to handle it.
“Việt Nam should plan to guide local authorities to organise, review and adjust solid waste management effectively,” she said.
Specifically, the relevant ministries’ planning, construction blueprints and strategic objectives must be completed by mid-2019.
In Việt Nam, the rate of solid waste collection in the cities currently is 85 per cent, while in rural areas it ranges from 50 to 60 per cent. Waste that is not collected is littered into rivers, canals and the sea without appropriate treatment.
The main form of solid waste collection in the country today is a system in which trash trucks collect garbage from homes and public bins, then bring it to a dump.
About 95 per cent of the solid waste collected has been buried at more than 500 landfills built by local authorities and thousands of small-scale, unauthorised landfills built by residents.
Among these unplanned landfills, many small-scale ones don’t meet hygiene standards while others are located near water resources. Because of this, garbage destined for the landfills ends up in the surrounding areas, including rivers and canals.
Additionally, plastic waste management is weak in localities that don’t classify waste as part of the initial garbage collection process.
According to Hương, by 2020 about 80 per cent of solid waste (including plastic waste) will be treated according to the classification and recycling technology.
At a seminar last week co-organised by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the Vietnam Business Council for Sustainable Development (VBCSD) and the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Technology (VCCI), expert Hoàng Dương Tùng said plastic waste that hasn’t been recycled is mainly plastic bags, boxes, straws and single-use bottles, mainly from the activities of households, offices, schools, markets and restaurants.
But plastic scraps from the manufacturing workshops have been collected and recycled.
The two cities of Hà Nội and HCM City discharge the largest amount of waste into the environment. Every day, there are about 80 tonnes of rubbish.
HCM City alone generates 250,000 tonnes of plastic waste annually, of which 48,000 tonnes are buried and 200,000 tonnes are recycled or disposed directly into the environment.
According to a report in 2015 from the University of Georgia in the US, Việt Nam is one of the five countries in the world that disposes the largest amount of plastic waste into the ocean.
“Việt Nam is among the top 20 countries with the largest amount of waste, equal to the United States or Malaysia, and higher than the average level in the world.”
Each year, about 8 million tonnes of plastic waste disposed in the ocean, of which 1.8 million tonnes come from Việt Nam. On average, each Vietnamese person releases 1.2 kg of solid waste into the environment per day, of which 16 per cent is plastic waste, according to the University of Georgia report.
Bùi Thị Thu Hiền, representative of IUCN, said the Marine Plastic and Coastal Communities initiative launched late 2017 was an effort to control the release of plastic waste pollution in Việt Nam.
“Marine plastic waste pollution is one of the most widespread threats to our environment, economy and the whole society.”
“Every year, eight million tonnes of plastic waste—the equivalent of one truck full of plastic waste every minute—are released into our ocean, which ultimately infiltrates the ocean food chains, severely affecting the health and livelihood of both marine ecosystems and coastal communities.”
The Marine Plastic and Coastal Communities initiative is a three-year global initiative in Asia and Africa, funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida). Five countries—Mozambique, Kenya, South Africa, Thailand, and Việt Nam—are targeted to be the main focus.
The initiative is expected to help governments, enterprises, and social organisations develop knowledge, capacity, policy planning and plans of action to reduce plastic waste pollution.
Dr Nguyễn Lê Tuấn, Director of the Sea and Islands Research Institute at the Việt Nam Administration of Sea and Islands said plastic waste in the sea caused serious impacts on marine ecosystems.
“Large plastic fragments such as fishing traps and nets can trap species of birds, mammals, sea turtles and invertebrates. Types of plastic, especially micro plastics (less than 5mm in size) can be mixed with food of marine species,” he said.
“The study estimates that 90 per cent of world’s seabirds will eat plastics, and this number is estimated to reach 99 per cent by 2050.”
The expert on marine ecosystems warned that this could lead to the accumulation of some harmful substances or disturb digestion, affecting the growth of marine life. In addition, the micro plastic also has the ability to absorb pollutants.
At a Sea and Islands Week and World Ocean Day event organised recently in Quảng Ninh Province, Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Trần Hồng Hà called on all communities to take responsibility for protecting the sea environment.
He called for solutions for the plastic waste pollution problem for a healthier ocean. He said all localities, especially coastal provinces, should be at the forefront of the garbage and plastic waste cleaning movement.