Makers should remake, Vietnam says in recycling law amendment

By Gia Chinh   June 6, 2020 | 04:00 am PT
Makers should remake, Vietnam says in recycling law amendment
A man burns plastic waste at a landfill site on Binh Ba Island in Cam Ranh Bay, Khanh Hoa Province. Photo by Nguyen Viet Hung.
The environment ministry says manufacturers should share pollution costs with the government and citizens by recycling products at the end of their lifecycle.

It is proposing an Environmental Protection Law amendment to this effect.

In the draft amendment to the law that will be submitted to the National Assembly for approval this month, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment offers manufacturers two options: they can either pay a fee to the Environmental Protection Fund or do the recycling themselves or hire a unit for the purpose.

Authorities will set the minimum recycling rate that manufacturers must achieve and oversee implementation of the recycling process.

Phan Tuan Hung, director of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment's legal department, said current regulations mention the responsibility of the manufacturers but they do not go it specific recycling rates or task them with collecting products at the end of their life cycle. This makes the regulations ineffective, Hung said.

"In recent years, almost no manufacturer has voluntarily collected its products at the end of their lifecycle. Consumers throw all kinds of waste, including hazardous waste together with domestic waste, causing environmental pollution and a waste of resources," Hung said, adding that recycling craft villages in northern provinces of Bac Ninh, Hung Yen, Vinh Phuc were doing this, polluting the environment and showing no responsibility in dealing with it.

"Landfills are full of TV covers, light bulbs that cannot be collected and dealt with, which makes things difficult for local governments and cause environmental pollution. This is happening because manufacturers are not being legally held responsible for collecting and recycling their products at the end of the latter’s lifecycle," he said.

Hung further said that if the manufacturer is not held responsible, it will create inequality among producers, the state and consumers in bearing the financial burden of waste treatment.

"The state budget and the money of the people, including those who are not using the products, are being used to treat domestic waste," he said, adding that if the proposed regulation is approved, the manufacturer and the product consumers will share part of this cost.

According to the legal department, the proposal is transferring part of the responsibility of handling waste from local governments and taxpayers to the manufacturers and importers. It also realizes the principle of the polluters paying for the environmental damage they cause and adheres to the circulating economy that the government is targeting.

Kim In Wan, a former South Korean deputy foreign minister, said such regulations have been in place in many countries and territories including EU members, South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Indonesia, Thailand and Singapore.

"This regulation will connect and support the implementation of waste collection by volume. Instead of throwing a garbage bag and paying a higher fee, homemakers will have more motivation and receive financial support for their waste that gets sorted for recycling," said Kim, adding that the manufacturer's recycling responsibility is key to shaping the recycling industry.

In March, the Vietnam Environment Administration (VEA), an advisory body under the ministry, suggested that people discarding trash should pay a fee based on the volume and type of trash.

The Environment Law, which came into effect in 2010, stipulates clearly that people have to sort trash at source, but this has not happened at all, so all types of garbage thus go to one place before ending up at some landfills, the VEA said.

With the latest proposal, the environment ministry has three main goals: It aims to transfer the fiscal burden of the state budget (80 percent of waste disposal costs) to the manufacturers, encourage them to make environment-friendly products, and ensure more efficient use of resources in production.

It would also contribute to building the recycling industry through generating more income, employment, and social security through effective collection, transportation, recycling and production networks.

Vietnam discharges around 70,000 tons of trash every day; not much is sorted and most is buried, according to the VEA.

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