Waste collection crisis proves mind-boggling

Recycling or incinerating the 10,000 tons of waste produced per day in Ho Chi Minh City is no easy task. The outdated and mostly unregulated waste collecting system only adds more obstacles to the situation.
Makeshift collectors’ wagons are causing serious urban pollution. (Photo: SGGP)
Makeshift collectors’ wagons are causing serious urban pollution. (Photo: SGGP)

A far-fetched goal

According to HCMC’s Department of Natural Resources and Environment, the city strives to dispose of up to 60% domestic waste by means of recycling and incineration by 2020.

Experts, however, doubt the plausibility of this goal by pointing out that the current waste-collecting system has yet to reach an “industrialized and modernized” scale. More specifically, a majority of waste collectors’ establishments still use makeshift and outdated vehicles to collect garbage, employing a mostly unknown number of workers on a city-wide scale.

 The indecorous vehicles usually result in leakage and scattered trash, making the city an unsightly scene wherever these wagons appear. On the other hand, due to the large number of unregulated workers, wastes are often time not properly sorted for recycling, and sometimes garbage bags can be left piling up for days without being collected.

The “green city” scheme

According to the HCMC Department of Natural Resources and Environment, nearly 2,200 makeshift vehicles are being used by private waste-collectors`’ companies and cooperatives. In addition, there are about 3,500 more modern equipment and vehicles used by local public service companies and HCMC Urban Environment Co., Ltd.

The city has been encouraging waste collectors’ businesses to get loans from the Environmental Protection Fund at with preferential interest rates to replace their outdated vehicle, said Mr. Nguyen Trung Tuan Anh, Head of the Solid Waste Management Division under the department. The result, however, is not looking bright.

According to Mr. Tong Van Thom, representative of District 5 waste-collectors’ cooperative, most self-regulated establishments cannot afford vehicle and equipment renewal and hire of vehicle operators and collectors at a household level.

On the other hand, many businesses like HCMC Urban Environment Co., Ltd have made efforts in renovating their equipment, but still cannot utilize them to the fullest due to an already limited number of areas that need their service being shared among too many collectors’ establishments.

Moreover, waste sorting at the source can only be done with enough equipment and manpower, and must be narrowed down to at least an urban area scale. The success of this method has already been proven at Tan Phu District’s urban areas since 2013.

Environmental experts encourage HCMC to shift the waste collecting duty onto businesses with sufficient competence and workforce, and regulate the returning costs and expenses for this service more reasonably.

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