Holistic strategies to tackle plastic waste sustainably

By Etienne Mahler | vir.com.vn

31 thg 3, 2022

On March 22, the French National Research Institute for Sustainable Development (IRD) hosted the final webinar for the pilot project ‘Enhancing plastic packaging collection, sorting, and recycling in Ho Chi Minh City’.

During the webinar, Dr. Emilie Strady from the IRD and Nguyen Thai Huyen from the Hanoi Architectural University (HAU), together with other speakers, presented and discussed the achieved key results during the pilot project’s 18 months of implementation. These include a thorough description of the current solid waste management system in Ho Chi Minh City and the identification of constraints and needs of stakeholders. Breaking the plastic wave The pilot – which was funded with €165,000 ($181,000) under the “Rethinking Plastics – Circular Economy Solutions to Marine Litter” project – was jointly implemented by the IRD and HAU. In the context of developing Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) regulations in the revised Law on Environmental Protection (LEP) and Decree No.08/2022/ND-CP, the pilot project worked on determining what kind of plastic is collected as well as how and by whom it is transferred and processed, and when it is leaked into the environment. The pilot also assessed if and how the plastic waste is recycled and what would be needed to enhance recycling. The pilot was based on a territorial and stakeholders' approach along the post-consumer plastic packaging value chain, evidence-based methodology (on plastic quality including polymer identification), and an institutional approach (legal framework). One of the many outcomes of the pilot was the report “Expectations and constraints of plastic packaging waste recyclers under the future EPR scheme in Vietnam”, which is based on the results of an online survey among recyclers. “The UN states that around 400 million tonnes of plastics are produced every year, and around 14 million tonnes end up in the oceans. Thus, marine plastic pollution has become a huge problem, affecting the health of oceans and species living within them, food safety and quality, human health, and many of our activities since we’re extremely dependent on the oceans,” Bel said. In 2020, Ho Chi Minh City was estimated to cast away around 1,500 tons of plastic and nylon every day. Photo: IRD/Rethinking Plastics“The idea of the pilot project was to establish and disseminate good practices. The project consists of tangible initiatives that demonstrate change and results, as well as best practices to increase operation between private and public stakeholders, academia, and civil society, leading towards systemic solutions,” Bel added. To get there, the project team had to tackle challenges brought by the pandemic, outlined the team leader of the regional project ‘Rethinking Plastics’, Alvaro Zurita from the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit GmbH (GIZ), during the workshop. “We’ve started in 2019 with very motivated teams and achieved a lot” recalled Zurita. “But because of COVID-19, we had to constantly change the modalities and ways we work together, for example, we went from in-person workshops to webinars. But we did it, and today, we’re closing a successful pilot project.” Bolstering EPR applications Nguyen Thi, representative of the Department of Legal Affairs under the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MoNRE), presented data and experiences on the implementation of the pilot project in the context of the wider application of circular economy principles and EPR regulations. “The consumption of plastics increased dramatically in the last decade. In this context, the idea of a circular economy and a preliminary roadmap for its implementation already appeared in the Law on Environmental Protection 2008. However, the implementation of waste collection has been weak initially,” Thi explained. “While informal collectors have been contributing their share, recycling has thus far been mainly happening on a small scale in craft villages. But industrial recycling remained weak.” Thi explained that, although EPR regulations had been in existence for 15 years, they were implemented on a voluntary basis. And, though some enterprises had established collection points, they had little success in collecting plastic waste. Many of them also were unclear about responsibilities and ways to carry out EPR principles. Schema on general EPR mechanism adapted from LEP 72/2020/QH14, Article 54, Article 55. Source: MoNRETackling the mammoth task Since 2020, when Decree 08 was enacted, mandatory EPR has been enacted and a task force was established. The task force includes several governmental institutions, private companies, as well as domestic and international organisations. “Rethinking Plastics is also one of the members of the task force and has contributed a lot. We also learned from the experiences of South Korea, Taiwan, and Europe,” Thi said. During around a dozen workshops and dialogues, the current EPR scheme has been formed and promoted among stakeholders. “Although EPR does not affect collection directly, it impacts manufacturers and importers through mandatory recycling rates and standards. These require manufacturers to meet adequate amounts of recycled materials and improve the quality of their recycling. Accordingly, the collection of waste will automatically increase,” Thi explained. During her presentation at the webinar, IRD’s Strady presented several solutions to tackle the plastic problem, including promoting the understanding of EPR and plastic waste categorisation among waste stakeholders, improving plastic waste traceability, and formalising and integrating plastic waste aggregators and collectors along the value chain. “We also recommend improving waste sorting and enhancing the spatial organisation and attractiveness of collection points,” Strady said. Dr. Nguyen Thai Huyen, lecturer at HAU, further elaborated on this topic, including discussing waste sources, collecting units, and waste-purchasing facilities. “It is necessary to clearly define the roles and composition of stakeholders in waste collection and treatment as these are very different in each locality, and their roles in waste classification and treatment also differ significantly,” Huyen said. To this end, Huyen recommended creating digital maps of garbage collection and disposal points in metropolitan areas. “These maps could be linked with each other and connected online on the website of the state management agency on the collection and waste treatment in each locality,” Huyen said. The project’s key documents will be available on the websites of IRD and Rethinking Plasticsshortly and disseminated among stakeholders to scale up the methodology at other locations.