Plastic industry hit hard by abrupt scrap import ban

By Vien Thong   August 14, 2018 | 11:49 pm PT
Plastic industry hit hard by abrupt scrap import ban
A woman sorts out recyclable plastic soft drink bottles at Xa Cau village, outside Hanoi, Vietnam. Photo by Reuters/Kham
Vietnamese plastic firms are unable to import scrap following a ban by the government, and said costs are becoming unaffordable as a result.

“We’ll lose $10 million this year if we cannot import plastic scrap for manufacturing,” Tran Vu Le, director of Le Tran Plastic, told a conference organized Tuesday by the Vietnam Plastic Association (VPA).

Other businesses attending the event said the inadequate plastic recycling in the country means they cannot source scrap locally.

“HCMC produces 900 tons of plastic waste daily, but only 90 tons are recycled,” Hoang Phi Vu, director of Minh Tam Tin Nghia Plastic Company, said.

Most of the plastic waste is mixed with regular trash and not sorted, and so does not meet export standard, he said.

The problem began recently after Vietnamese authorities banned scrap imports just like China, which banned imports of certain wastes last January.

As of August 13, there were over 6,600 containers of scrap remaining unclaimed at Cat Lai Port in HCMC and Hai Phong Port, according to the two ports.

They have been there for over 30 days, 90 days in the case of a majority of them.

Scrap importers have been reluctant to claim the containers because of “unsuitable” regulations related to their import, VPA chairman Ho Duc Lam told the conference.

One such regulation requires import of plastic scrap with less than 2 percent impurities.

“It is very difficult to extract the scrap from the containers to measure if it is below 2 percent,” Dinh Xuan Thang, director of the Hoa Lu Environmental Research and Application Center, pointed out.

Vietnamese regulations allow empty plastic water bottles to be imported, but not bottles that contained sweetened drinks.

“Who will sort these bottles to sell to Vietnam?” Hoang Duc Vuong, a spokesperson for recycling businesses in the VPA, asked.

The VPA said in a release: “Vietnamese customs on July 7 slapped without prior warning an abrupt ban on scrap imports which did not give businesses time to react.”

This ban has imposed a “burden” on plastic scrap importers, it said.

Lam said he has written to Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment about the problem.

In the first six months of this year Vietnam imported 277,000 tons of plastic scrap mostly from Japan, the U.S. and Korea.

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