Household waste sorting - current practices and the unsolved problems
According to Decree 45 on sanctioning of administrative violations in the field of environment, from August 25, 2022, individuals and households that do not sort household waste from sources will receive a fine from 500,000 VND to 1 million VND ($20 - $40).
This is one of the latest regulations, to promote the process of sorting waste at source according to the Law on Environmental Protection 2020, with provisions related to the collection and treatment of domestic waste and the environment, making full use of recyclable resources. This is another great attempt from the government in tackling the rising waste issue in Vietnam, as in 2006, Hanoi implemented a pilot project of waste separation at source funded by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). With the aim to reduce, recycle and reuse waste, the project achieved many remarkable results (a reduction of 30% waste to landfill), however, within only 3 years, the project had to stop because JICA stopped sponsoring the program.
While a number of households and individuals have been working hard to sort waste into different types and put them into separated bags, when bringing to the collection points, most waste bags are then dumped into the same truck, wasting the whole effort of sorting waste previously.
For example, when Hanoi attempted the waste sorting trial previously, the proposed options were to use garbage bags by colours: green bags for organic waste, black/red bags for inorganic waste or dumping by the hour. However, the efficiency after the trial was not high because people could sort waste from the source but the garbage collectors used only one collection vehicle to collect them all at the collection point. Garbage trucks again put all kinds of sorted garbage bags into the vehicle and took it to the dump. This fact has put off a number of people from continuing sorting their waste. The government hence definitely needs to focus on setting up a new system of collecting waste, with different bins and trucks for different types of waste, and the waste collectors can refuse to collect waste if it is not sorted correctly.
Specific solutions for waste sorting at source are still inadequate, especially in major cities such as Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Da Nang, and Can Tho. While most people are willing to sort waste at source according to the types of bags that the projects or the government distribute, nevertheless, as the specific instructions on how to sort waste at source, or how to collect garbage bags are still vague, most households struggle to understand and continue with the habit.
Furthermore, the characteristic of most major cities in Vietnam is that there are many small alleys and small streets, which are not suitable for urban planning by crates. Due to the limited amount of waste transportation vehicles, when collecting, trucks have to combine the sorted and unclassified waste to get enough shipping volume. On the other hand, as most of the home area of families in Hanoi is often small, leaving 2 classified garbage bins in the house makes people not very pleasant. The placement of large trash bins for gathering and sorting in residential areas also faces many obstacles, especially from businesses because they do not want their front appearance to look bad.
Ms. Nguyen Thi Hong, environmental worker at Urenco Hoan Kiem branch confided: "It is only on radio and television, but in reality, how we have to collect, there is no specific plan, no plan has yet reached us.”
Explaining this problem, Ms. Ngo Thi Loan, Deputy Director of Urenco Hanoi Communication and Recycling Center said that the company is currently waiting for the city's guidance to develop an implementation plan: "Urenco Hanoi is still working implemented according to the order of the city and according to the mechanism of the investor, so we are still waiting for the plans and instructions of the authorities, because it is not clear yet, it is very difficult for Urenco to plan the implementation of the project appropriately.”
In addition to the regulations on the level of fines as introduced, it is necessary to study the sanctions and the sanctioning process - who is monitoring and supervising? who has the right to sanction? Without specific guidance and handling methods, the new rule might not have much impacts like it could have on creating a new habit for Vietnamese.
Decree 45/2022 stipulates that agencies, organisations and owners of production, business and service establishments that generate ordinary industrial solid waste as follows:
A fine between 500,000 to 1 million VND for households and individuals failing to sort daily-life solid waste according to regulations.
A fine of between 3 and 5 million VND for failing to have a record of handing over industrial solid waste that must normally be treated for each transfer according to regulations.
A fine of between 20-25 million VND for failing to classify at the source of ordinary industrial solid waste as prescribed; equipment and tools for storing industrial solid waste normally do not meet technical requirements for environmental protection.
The maximum fine for an administrative violation in the field of environmental protection is 1 billion VND for individuals and 2 billion VND for organisations. The statute of limitations for sanctioning administrative violations in the field of environmental protection is 2 years.
Source: By Tram Anh Pham on Vietnaminsider