Time to scrap scrap imports: Vietnam minister

By Staff reporters   June 5, 2018 | 09:34 pm PT
Time to scrap scrap imports: Vietnam minister
Plastic scrap is smuggled into Vietnam at Cai Lai Port in Ho Chi Minh City in April 2018. Photo by VnExpress/Thien Tri
Environment minister sounds alarm, saying Vietnam is ill equipped to treat its solid waste.

Vietnam has to start saying no to scrap imports because the country is not able to deal properly with solid waste, the environment minister has said.

Tran Hong Ha, Minister of Natural Resources and Environment, was responding on Tuesday after the problem was raised by legislator Nguyen Quang Dung at the ongoing National Assembly session in Hanoi.

Dung said he shares concerns about the amount of scrap that Vietnam imports. It is way too high and can “turn the country into a landfill of industrial and radioactive waste,” he said.

In the first quarter alone, Vietnam imported 1.3 million tons of steel scrap worth $462.2 million, up 31.3 percent in volume and 68.7 percent in value against the same period last year.

Between January 1 last year and March 12 this year, up to 928 Vietnamese companies imported scrap, making nearly 49,300 import declarations, according to official customs department data.

Ha said his ministry would review the list of all types of scrap currently allowed to enter Vietnam to see which can and cannot be recycled. It will devise a “proper” solution after the review, the minister said.

Many countries in the world have said no to scrap imports and as Vietnam is not capable of treating its waste effectively, the country has to say no to waste imports, Ha added.

“Waste in Vietnam is different from the world and even the advanced technologies that other developed countries are applying to treat their waste have turned out to be inappropriate in Vietnam,” he noted.

Many domestic waste treatment plants do not operate effectively and if those plants cannot meet technical and environment criteria, they should be shut down, the minister said.

But the legislators were not satisfied with Ha’s response.

Legislator Truong Trong Nghia said local companies have developed technologies that can treat waste and skip the classification step. Some can even generate electricity from waste, but they have been facing fierce competition from foreign companies, he said.

Ha confirmed that many problems remain in the waste treatment process and that the ministry will seek support from the government to “soon find a standard technology to treat waste in Vietnam.”

China, which was the world's top destination for recyclable trash for years, implemented a ban on certain waste imports in January. The action left nations scrambling to find new dumping grounds for growing piles of garbage, as insiders suggested that there would be a shift to other destinations in the region, such as Vietnam.

Major shipping terminals in Vietnam last week announced that they will temporarily stop accepting scrap from June 25 to October 15, the business journal Resource Recycling Inc. reported.

The Tan Cang Cai Mep International Terminal has said that the large quantity of plastic waste containers the port has received has caused troublesome backups and delays. The port currently has 1,132 TEUs (1 TEU equals a 39-cubic-meter container) of plastic scrap.

Tan Cang Cat Lai, one of Vietnam’s largest shipping terminals, had more than 8,000 TEUs of plastic waste and paper as of May 21.

Both terminals, which are operated by the Saigon Newport Corporation, are no longer accepting plastic scrap.

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