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Wasted: Unused waste treatment plants in Vietnam

Currently, nationwide, there are 1,322 solid waste treatment facilities, of which nearly 381 are domestic solid waste incinerators, 37 are composting lines, 904 are landfills. However, many local incinerators, which have been invested with hundreds and thousands of billions of dong, have been idle for many years, causing millions of tons of untreated garbage. As over 70% of waste in Vietnam is being treated mainly by landfill technology and only 13% of waste is burned to recover energy, it is more important than ever before to develop a thorough system to support the development of waste treatment plants in Vietnam.

Complications in the legal process

In Hanoi, The project - Dong Anh plasma pyrolysis waste treatment plant, which was invested by Thanh Quang Investment Joint Stock Company, started in December 2011 with a total investment of over 768 billion VND (about 33 millions USD), however, till now, it has not been operational for more than 10 years. According to Mr. Nguyen Thanh Quang, Director of Thanh Quang Investment Joint Stock Company, the factory is 90% complete. In addition, the unit is in the process of applying for a license to add the function of treating hazardous industrial and medical waste, however, this function is not yet available in QH 609. Thus, while the construction started in 2011, it has gone through 3 times of adjustment, 1 time to adjust the investment policy and up to now, the investor has applied for adjustment of QH609, consequently, it is still unknown to know when the factory Dong Anh plasma pyrolysis waste management could start its operation.

The unused facility and land of Dong Anh district waste treatment area project is a huge waste to the alarming problem in Hanoi (Photo: VietnamFinance)
The unused facility and land of Dong Anh district waste treatment area project is a huge waste to the alarming problem in Hanoi (Photo: VietnamFinance)

It is believed that while originally, the project was approved with the function of treating ordinary domestic and industrial solid waste, the investor wanted to add the function of treating hazardous industrial and medical wastes, which will help generating profit faster than normal domestic and industrial waste treatment.

Additionally, according to experts, this project did not take into account the mixed waste incineration in Vietnam from the beginning, as plasma technology cannot burn all types of waste at the same time. Hence, the project still has to wait for the adjustment of the Prime Minister's waste planning to switch to industrial waste incineration. Similarly, other waste incineration projects require modern combustion technology with huge investment and efforts, hence, attracting fewer businesses.

Source: Truyền Hình Quốc Hội

When it comes to waste-to-energy incineration plants, investors, both locally and internationally, are still facing certain barriers in investments. According to Nguyen Quoc Tuan, the former Deputy Director of Technical Infrastructure Department, Ministry of Construction, accessing to loan capital requires certain conditions and principles such as having an approved project, being granted an investment certificate, and signing a power purchase and sale contract (PPA). In addition, investors, as well as local authorities, must also comply with the provisions of laws and decrees guiding bidding and investor selection. The appraisal and selection of investors are also difficult and inadequate, as in fact, many investors still have limited capital capacity, the ability to mobilise capital and limited access to modern technology suitable for waste that has not been sorted at source like in Vietnam. Moreover, there is not yet a synchronised coordination between the incentive mechanism through the selling price of electricity produced from waste electricity according to the incentive mechanism of the Government issued in Decision 31/2014/QD-TTg dated 5/5/2014 of the Prime Minister The government, and the regulations on waste treatment, collection and transportation costs to be paid by the People's Committees of provinces and centrally run cities, and related waste treatment incentive mechanisms. The order and procedures for investing in a garbage power project are also still complicated, with many binding conditions, causing investors to face numerous difficulties. In addition, up to now, the Power Plan VIII has not yet been approved, causing many waste power projects to continue to be put on hold.

Limitations in capacity and management

In the last decades, many local waste incinerators were developed in provinces across Vietnam, acting as a new direction in solving the inadequacies of grassroots waste. However, these incinerators only lasted a short time and then stopped operating completely or partially, due to their outdated technology, the scale of investment, weak operation management as well as difficulty in raising financial sources for daily operation.

For example, the domestic waste treatment station in Kim Tan town (Thach Thanh, Thanh Hoa) was put in use in 2014, with the designed capacity of 10-15 tons/2 burning furnaces/day, using Nfi-05 thermal combustion technology with a total investment up to 15 billion VND (about $630k). This incinerator system is expected to process all the domestic waste of people in the district, even for some communes in Vinh Loc and Ha Trung districts. However, after few years in operation, the project revealed a number of limitations such as unsuitable investment choices, limited capacity (the plan originally will have 2 waste incinerators with the total treatment capacity of 10 - 15 tons/day, but in fact, on average, the daily amount of domestic waste collected in Kim Tan town and the surrounding areas of Thach Thanh district is up to 25-30 tons). The overcrowding and inefficient operation turn this project from the goal of treating local waste to a source of pollution, affecting people's lives.

Another example is the waste incinerator in Hau Loc commune (Thanh Hoa), invested and built in 2018, with a total investment capital of up to 5.2 billion VND (about $220k), with the goal of treating waste for the locality and the neighbouring commune of Xuan Loc. However, after less than 5 years of operation, the project fell into disrepair, causing serious environmental pollution. Recorded data show that the 3,000 m2 campus of the incineration is currently holding a large amount of waste remains unprocessed. Many items of the incinerator are also damaged, rusty, and seriously degraded. The incinerator is also under-designed (7 tons of garbage/day against more than 10 tons/day in reality). Besides, the incinerator is invested with outdated technology, and when it is seriously degraded condition, there is no capital to repair and upgrade its capacity.

During the investment process, some project developers raise investment from different sources of capital such as ODA and private capital, but in an unsustainable way. Consequently, after a period of operation, the waste treatment plants have to be stopped as the revenue was not enough to pay for the daily operation and repairing damaged machinery and equipment. Along with that, while some incinerator are technologically advanced, but still fail to perform effectively as their emissions do not meet the national environmental standards, the ash and slag are not burned thoroughly, or in some cases, a large percentage of received waste is difficult to be handle, hence required a higher cost to be retreated and buried.

The future

There are many more similar stories of other waste treatment plans across Vietnam, where hundreds of thousands of dollars are being wasted in rusty, unused facilities. Due to the limitations in investment and technology of local, small incinerations, in 2015, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment reported to the Prime Minister on advising on the restriction of investment in small-scale incinerators at commune level. After that, the Government issued a document directing localities to limit the investment in waste incinerators at the village and commune level. In 2016, MONRE issued the National Technical Regulation on domestic solid waste incinerators (QCVN 61-MT:2016/BTNMT), accordingly, within 6 months (to the end of 2016), localities must renovate and upgrade domestic waste incinerators to ensure that post-treatment emissions meet the permitted standards. In the 3-year roadmap (from May 1, 2016 to May 1, 2019), facilities must meet all basic technical requirements for domestic solid waste incinerators, and localities are not allowed to invest in new small-sized incinerators at commune level below 300kg/hours from May 1, 2016. The government aims to build a centralised waste treatment facility (treatment of inter-commune and inter-district rural waste) with advanced technology to limit landfilling. Moreover, as the loan level is too low for investors, while the waste treatment project requires a lot of capital with modern technology from 300 to 1,000 billion VND (about $13 million to $43 million), experts recommended to increase the lend to up to 50% of the project value and mortgage from visual assets to support businesses.

More importantly, it is crucial for the government to develop and implement a thorough system of sorting waste at source. According to experts, regardless of the upstream treatment method, upstream waste classification is still required, thereby creating a premise for recycling activities such as microbiology of organic waste, recycling of plastic waste, and ensuring that the remaining waste put into the factory will match the required heat. Particularly for non-burnable waste, although it has to be buried, it has greatly reduced the load on the dumps because it has been partially reused.

With the openings of new waste treatment plants, and the active changes in the government's support, Vietnam is looking forward to a more efficient, financially sustainable and modern waste treatment system.

Source: collected from the Internet



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