Get drastic against plastic, experts advise Hanoi

By Gia Chinh   November 10, 2019 | 06:08 pm PT
Get drastic against plastic, experts advise Hanoi
People walk along plastic waste left on a street in downtown Hanoi after the New Year Eve countdown party, January 1, 2019. Photo by VnExpress/Ngoc Thanh.
Hanoi should emulate anti-plastic actions in other cities, like stopping use of bottled water and making packaging firms pay for collection and recycling.

Experts also said at a Friday meeting that Vietnam's capital city should work harder to make people understand the importance and benefits of reducing the use of plastic. They said the problem of plastic waste was becoming worse by the day.

Pham Van Duc, deputy general director of the Hanoi Urban Environment Company (Urenco), said of more than 6,000 tons of garbage generated each day in the city, up to 1,000 tons were plastic waste.

"The ratio of plastic waste was 12 percent back in the 2000s, now it is 18 percent and growing fast.

"Sorting trash at source has remained just propaganda in Hanoi (with no action) and as a result there are many difficulties in treating plastic waste," he said.

Nam Son, Hanoi's biggest landfill in Soc Son District, lures around 600 people every day to pick plastic waste. These people then sell the plastic to recycling facilities. This practice causes severe pollution because none of the facilities use environmentally-friendly methods.

Ranell Martin Dedicatoria, Southeast Asia Regional Program Manager of Germany-based ICLEI, cited the experiences of several cities in the world in dealing with plastic waste. ICLEI, or Local Governments for Sustainability, is an international organization of local governments and national and regional local government organizations that have made a commitment to sustainable development.

He said Roubaix, a city in northern France, has launched an initiative challenging 500 families to volunteer to cut the use of plastic. Households who sign up are offered incentives on trash collection tax.

The city also throws frequent non-plastic parties to promote the habit of not using plastic.

In Italy's Torino, the city's government has established 168 drinking water stations so that its residents and visitors can take water as they wish instead of buying bottled water.

"This has help Torino save 29 million plastic bottles and cut emission of 668 tons of carbon dioxide each year," said Ranell.

He also mentioned the trash collection experience of Indonesia, a Southeast Asian that shares many similarities with Vietnam.

Indonesian people can now trade their plastic waste for cash, and this is something Hanoi could do, he suggested.

Other experts at the event said businesses should also get involved. They noted that the Dutch government has regulated that the producers of packaging have to pay for the cost of collecting and recycling it.

"It is necessary to assign more tasks on managing and treating plastic waste to local authorities, and gradually switch from burying waste to recycling," said Emmanuel Cerise, director of PRX Vietnam, a cooperation office between the People's Committee of Hanoi and the Île-de-France region. With support from the Agence Française de Développement (AFD), the office focuses on the climate crisis, biodiversity conservation, education, urban development, health and governance.

'A headache'

Luu Thi Thanh Chi, deputy head of Hanoi's environment department, said plastic waste had become "a headache" for the capital city.

Hanoi has targeted to ban single-use plastic by 2025 but in order to achieve this, it will need all parties, residents, businesses and authorities to be on one page, she said.

Vietnam's per capita plastic waste production is the third highest in Southeast Asia, having increased more than 10-fold in the last three decades.

Each Vietnamese person consumed only 3.8 kg of plastic in 1990, but 28 years later, this had risen to 41.3 kg, according to a report released in September by Ipsos Business Consulting, a global growth strategy consulting firm based in Paris.

In Southeast Asia, only Malaysia (75.4 kg) and Thailand (66.4 kg) generate more plastic waste per person.

Hanoi and HCMC, in particular, each spends VND1.2-1.5 trillion ($52-65 million) a year, or around 3.5 percent of their budget, on collecting and treating waste, mostly by burying.

At a conference in July, Nguyen Thuong Hien, head of the Vietnam Environment Administration's waste management department, had said that there was no solid waste treatment model in the country that met all technical, economic, social, and environmental requirements.

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