Poor management in sorting and treating solid waste not only pollutes the environment, but also wastes resources, environmental experts said at the third 3R International Scientific Conference on Material yesterday in Hà Nội.
The three-day conference was organised by the Việt Nam Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, the Japan Society of Material Cycles and Waste Management, and the Korean Society of Waste Management.
It offered chances for policymakers, researchers and enterprises to discuss science and technology regarding the 3Rs – reduce, reuse and recycle – and discover solutions to improve solid-waste treatment in Việt Nam.
Speaking at the conference, Deputy Minister Võ Tuấn Nhân said that most solid waste discharged in both urban and rural areas was not sorted before being collected.
Currently most waste in Việt Nam is buried in landfills. But not many landfills meet environmental standards, he said.
Speaking on the sidelines of the conference, Nguyễn Hữu Ninh, chairman of the Centre for Environment Research Education and Development, said solid waste could be recycled or used to manufacture products.
However, to fully make use of solid waste, people needed to sort it before putting it out on the street, he said.
“If we don’t make use of solid waste, it’s really wasteful,” he said.
Michael Parsons, an advisor from the Institute of Strategy and Policy on Natural Resources and Environment in Australia, said one of Viet Nam’s major challenges in waste management was separation at the source.
In many countries around the world, particularly in Europe, there were four to five different bins in the street for people to sort their waste, he said.
If we could get people to sort the waste, the recycling would so much cheaper for companies to do, he said.
“In Việt Nam, it’s not only the question of behaviour but also the question of technology and willingness to provide the means for people can act to change their behaviour,” he added.
Michael also shared experiences from Australia, which was trying to achieve a zero-waste policy.
The idea was to ensure that waste was treated as a resource, he said. It should be recycled into higher-value items, not just lower-value items.
So countries should focus on waste treatment that would make them more money, not less, he said.