Policies on household solid waste still display inadequacy

The amount of household solid waste (HSW) in major cities nationwide is expected to increase by 10-16 percent a year on average. However, the most common waste treatment method in Vietnam, which is mere burying, has proved its unsuitability for the modern and environmentally friendly development trend at present.

Policies on household solid waste still display inadequacy ảnh 1

The waste treatment area in Da Phuoc Commune of Binh Chanh District in Ho Chi Minh City.

Statistics from the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry reveal that in 2021, the total volume of HSW in Vietnam reached 51,585 tonnes a day, more than 30,000 tonnes of which came from large cities. Such an amount, plus low awareness of communities in certain places, led to a low rate of waste collection and treatment. 71 percent of this HSW was buried in landfills, most of which are unhygienic. As the land resource for landfills becomes increasingly scarce, this method proves unsustainability in a long term.

Director Pham Hong Son of the Environment Protection Authority of the Central Highlands and Central regions explained that the limit in HSW management results from inconsistent legal documents regarding environment protection, and thus displaying an unclear duty of state units in this matter.

Limited state budgets for HSW treatment add to this problem as they cannot meet the high demands of the community. In the meantime, unattractive preferential policies and mechanisms for this aspect have prevented a successful mobilization of possible resources in the society.

Moreover, there is not yet detailed regulations on assessing waste treatment technologies, so localities are frustrated choosing suitable ones to apply in their areas. Adding to that is a low focus on scientific research for advanced waste treatment technologies, forcing the country to maintain the harmful method of garbage burying, which is not at all environmentally friendly.

Environmental experts mentioned that it is unattractive preferential policies that strongly discourage businesses from investing in advanced equipment or technologies to process waste. This calls for amendments in current policies by the State so that these businesses feel more eager carrying out technology upgrades.

In particular, expert on environment management Nguyen Quoc Cong from Hanoi Architectural University shared that the development and investment capital of the State for environment protection now only answer 50 percent of the real needs, not to mention inadequacies in budget allocation to different regions. Meanwhile, inconsistent and incomplete legal policies have created high risks and low profit in HSW treatment, pushing investors away from this field.

Mr. Cong, therefore, proposed certain feasible solution such as promoting HSW sorting at source; changing the awareness and thinking about private economic and private enterprise development; ensuring reasonable and transparent profits in legal policies when mobilizing social resources for waste treatment; allocating a certain state budget amount for investment in this field to attract the private sector.

He stressed that the State should allow businesses to actively suggest feasible waste treatment technologies in specific locations in accordance with the local land use planning as long as these technologies can ensure environment protection, while the land and capital use shows transparency.

Chairman Nguyen Van Thien of the Board of Directors of Binh Duong Water – Environment JSC. said that at present, the mechanisms and policies related to waste treatment are still vague and weak, leading frustration of localities when applying. Many businesses use capitals from different sources, yet cannot achieve their expected results. A lot of them have to stop operation after some time due to profit loss and no money to repair broken equipment.

“The Finance Ministry should develop a price framework for waste treatment and proper preferential policies (favoring recycled products in the market), introduce financial support to reduce the prices of recycled products to attract more consumers, and encourage the community to recycle a product through many cycles before destroying them via burning or similar methods. The Natural Resources and Environment Ministry should advise the Government on devising supporting mechanisms and policies for waste treatment in Vietnam to fulfill the goals set in the Environment Protection Law 2020” proposed Mr. Thien.

Representative of Vietnam Waste Planning Co. Ltd. Hideki Wada shared that in Japan, HSW sorting is divided into stages according to the real situation of the country. Japan uses waste bags of different sizes to calculate the waste amount for service fee identification. This has made its citizens high aware of disposing less garbage to save money, and in turn leading to cost reductions in waste collection and treatment.