They were portable and saved people time travelling to landfills to dump waste, said Phan Tien Dung, chairman of the People’s Committee of Phu Luu Commune, where the burner was invented.
“Frustrated by the fact that villagers have been throwing nylon bags, bottles and other solid waste away on the streets, but at the same time complaining about environmental pollution, the commune’s administration established the Phu Luu Commune Environmental Co-operative, which collects rubbish and charges fees,” Dung said.
However, even with the waste collectors, the situation didn’t change much.
“People still kept throwing rubbish away wherever they found convenient, especially into ponds and low-lying areas,” he said.
After several awareness campaigns failed to inspire people to keep the environment clean, the commune decided it would stop just talking and take action, Dung said.
“We decided to join hands with the provincial Department of Natural Resources and Environment’s Department of Environmental Protection to select an area in our commune to demonstrate our model for cleaning up the environment and also engaging local civil society,” he said. “We heard there was a new model of solid waste burner in Nam Dan District’s Nam Kim Commune in the neighbouring province of Nghe An. We visited the place and found out that it was a brick-built burner.”
However, many thought that burner was out of the question financially, especially if they were going to have to build one for every home.
“While everyone was at a loss what to do next, Le Tu Khuong, chairman of Phu Luu Commune’s Environmental Co-operative, came up with the idea of using cement and rock to cast a cylindrical burner, which would be cheaper and also convenient for villagers if they want to roll it around, ” Dung said.
The burner Khuong designed is 1.1m high and 30cm in diameter. A steel net is placed on the bottom, and a small square window on the side is just big enough to fit in fire-igniting material. When waste is burned, trash falls down through the net. Each burner costs VND350,000 to 400,000 (US$17 to $20).
Impressed by the new burner, the Department of Environmental Protection decided to set aside VND100 million ($4,700) to promote its use. The commune contributed VND30 million ($1,500) to produce about 200 for households in Thanh My Village, which was chosen as a pilot site for the project, Dung said.
Phan Thi Chau, a Thanh My Village resident, said that when they started using the burners, she and her fellow villagers stopped leaving waste on the roadside and started throwing it in the burners instead.
Dung said he hopes to collect positive reflections on burner use – like Chau’s – for a meeting next year on the burners’ performances during their first year. He said that if the pilot burner project was proven effective, his commune would need more funding to finance their use in the rest of the commune.