Hoi An adopts volume-based waste management fees

By Dac Thanh   March 27, 2024 | 03:21 pm PT
Hoi An, a picturesque city famed for its ancient charm, is pioneering a novel waste management initiative.

In a bid to foster a more environmentally conscious community, authorities have launched a pilot program that charges households and businesses for waste disposal based on the volume of trash they produce.

Every month, Pham Ngoc Hai and her family – residents on Nguyen Tri Phuong Street nestled within the historic old quarter – receives 16 ten-liter trash plastic bags from city authorities. The bags cost VND30,000, equivalent to the monthly environmental sanitation fee for one household.

Hai's is among over 1,600 families in Cam Nam Ward participating in the initiative, which aims to introduce a waste fee collection system based on weight or volume by 2025, in line with Vietnam's Environmental Protection Law.

Under the program, the city assigns plastic bags of varying volumes to households and businesses. Hai's family, comprising three members, receives 16 bags monthly, divided equally for organic and non-degradable waste.

"It normally takes one week to fill up a bag," Hai said, estimating he could save VND15,000 a month, with eight bags leftover.

Hai presents a 10-liter waste bag provided by Hoi An City to his family. Photo by VnExpress/Dac Thanh

Pham Ngoc Hai presents a 10-liter waste bag provided by authorities to his family in Hoi An. Photo by VnExpress/Dac Thanh

However, not all families are experiencing seamless integration with the new system.

Ho Thi Quy, whose family runs a business nearby, finds the allocated bags insufficient. Despite paying the VND60,000 in environmental sanitation fees, equivalent to receiving four bags of 40 liters a month, it's not enough.

Their waste normally fills two bags within a week, so she has to use additional regular plastic bags or sacks for waste.

"Waste in regular bags is still collected by sanitation workers," she said, noting that if fees are officially based on weight or volume, her family would have to spend an extra cost of about VND60,000 per month.

On many streets and alleys, sanitation workers still have to collect many regular plastic bags of unsorted waste.

Many locals are of the idea that charging fees through selling bags is just a swap and makes no difference from before. If the allocated bags run out, people still use regular bags or dump waste outside collection areas to avoid buying more.

Quy's predicament underscores a broader sentiment among locals. While the initiative aims to encourage responsible waste management, some perceive it as merely a bureaucratic shuffle. Concerns arise that once the allocated bags are exhausted, residents may revert to old habits or resort to illegal dumping.

"The government encourages people to use the distributed bags, but many who run out of those bags don't buy more," said Huynh Pham Thuy Lan, vice chairwoman of Cam Nam Ward.

Domestic waste is put in normal bags and sacks on a street of Hoi An. Photo by VnExpress/Dac Thanh

Domestic waste is put in normal bags and sacks on a street of Hoi An. Photo by VnExpress/Dac Thanh

Three months into the pilot program, approximately half of Cam Nam Ward households have embraced the city-distributed bags for waste disposal. However, challenges persist, prompting local authorities to intensify efforts in waste sorting awareness campaigns.

Nguyen Van Son, chairman of Hoi An City, acknowledges the transitional hurdles. He asserts that while adjusting to a pay-per-volume model may pose initial challenges, it aligns with long-term sustainability goals.

"This is the most reasonable method, but it takes time for residents to get used to and accept that more waste means higher fees," he said.

"For a long time, households producing more waste paid the same monthly fee of VND30,000 as those producing less, which is unfair. We know charging based on weight or volume is challenging, but we are determined to do it for long-term benefits," he added, emphasizing that enforcement measures would follow a period of promotion.

Indeed, Hoi An's waste management infrastructure remains a work in progress. With most domestic waste ending up in landfills, the city looks to expand the volume-based fee model following the completion of a modern waste treatment plant.

Tran Huu Ngoc, General Director of Hoi An Public Works JSC, underscores the need for clear guidelines to enforce waste collection standards.

Despite its challenges, Hoi An's initiative signifies a significant step towards sustainable waste management. As the city grapples with the complexities of modernization, its commitment to environmental stewardship shines as a beacon of progress.

The journey towards a greener Hoi An may be arduous, but it's one that promises a brighter, cleaner future for generations to come, Ngoc said.

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