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The problem of waste in Vietnam. Photo: Kham/Reuters

Businesses need to act on eliminating plastic waste

Recent reports show that the problem of plastic pollution is becoming more and more serious in the world in general and in Vietnam in particular. One of the main reasons given is that the business sector has not really played its role in the fight against plastic waste for a long time.
Recent reports show that the problem of plastic pollution is becoming more and more serious in the world in general and in Vietnam in particular. One of the main reasons given is that the business sector has not really played its role in the fight against plastic waste for a long time.

According to the latest report by Break Free From Plastic, more than 99% of plastic is produced from fossil fuels. It is estimated that the process of transporting fossil fuels and used to make plastic emits about 108 million tons of greenhouse gases (GHGs) each year. After becoming waste, plastic is mostly landfilled or incinerated – both of which generate significant amounts of GHGs.

If plastic production is kept at the current rate, to solve the accumulated GHG will consume 10-13% of the entire remaining carbon budget of the world. This share is projected to increase the global carbon budget by more than 50% by 2100.

Notably, large corporations are among the main causes of GHG emissions. For example, just talking about the large number of single-use plastic packaging produced every year has also contributed to “pumping” a large amount of CO2 emissions into the atmosphere. Among the top 10 plastic polluters in 2021 are: Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Unilever, Nestlé, Procter & Gamble, Mondelēz International, Philip Morris International, Danone, Mars, Inc., and Colgate-Palmolive.

For the fourth year in a row, Coca-Cola continues to take the lead as the World’s Leading Plastic Pollutant Manufacturer. In 2020, Coca-Cola produced 2.9 million tons of plastic, corresponding to 14.9 million tons of CO2 emissions – equivalent to 3.2 million vehicles operating in a year.

According to this report, the cost of collecting, sorting, treating and recycling a huge amount of plastic waste globally in 2019 alone is more than $ 32 billion – nearly equal to Coca-Cola’s revenue in 2020. But compared to the cost of GHG treatment over the life of plastic, it is still too small – 171 billion USD. By 2040, the social cost of plastic production is estimated at $7.1 trillion.

After the 26th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP26), 197 countries adopted the Glasgow Climate Compact. World leaders have all agreed to a 2030 deadline, with the world reaching a target of reducing CO2 emissions by 45% by 2030 compared with 2010 levels and reducing them to zero around 2050. race to zero”, not only the government’s commitments but also the business world, especially large corporations, must also take responsibility and actively reduce plastic production and GHG emissions.

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The COP26 conference adopted the Glasgow Climate Agreement. Photo: Reuters

The business sector that discharges the most plastic

Notably, the same problem is happening in Vietnam. According to the report “Market Research for Vietnam – Opportunities and Barriers to Plastic Recycling” released by IFC and the World Bank, about 3.9 million tons of plastic are consumed in Vietnam every year. . Of these, only 1.28 million tons (33%) were collected for recycling. As a result, up to 2.62 million tons of plastic is discarded, resulting in a loss of 75% of the material value of plastic, equivalent to $2.2-2.9 billion per year.

However, in this war, businesses have not fully played their role. Recently, the International Organization for Conservation of Nature Vietnam (WWF Vietnam) has conducted an investigation on a number of provinces and cities in Vietnam, such as Quang Ninh, Da Nang, Rach Gia, Ho Chi Minh City, and Phu. Yen…, in order to find out the causes of the increase in plastic waste and find a solution to solve the root of this problem. These activities are part of the Plastic Reduction Cities initiative, which is being implemented at a global level to aim for the goal of zero plastic waste in nature by 2030.

The results show that, in Quang Ninh, every day, about 23.02 tons of plastic waste can be lost into the environment, equivalent to 10.3% of the total waste generated, the plastic recycling rate is 24%. In Ho Chi Minh City, it is estimated that the total amount of plastic waste that can be lost to the environment is 203 tons/day, equivalent to 11.3% of the total amount of plastic waste generated, the plastic recycling rate is about 26%. In Rach Gia city (Kien Giang), an estimated 4.5 tons of garbage can be discharged into the environment every day, equivalent to 12.6% of the total amount of plastic waste generated, the recycling rate is estimated at 28%.

The survey also said that the area that generates the most plastic waste is the business group, the average amount of waste is about 88 liters per day. However, the disparity in emissions differs markedly between large and small firms. Small businesses usually only waste 15-20l/day. Compared to households, on average, a household emits about 7.8l/day, of which urban households usually discharge 25-30% more than households in suburban areas or in urban areas. countryside.

It shows that, although the amount of plastic waste is very large, the rate of plastic recycling in Vietnam is still very low. There are many reasons for this situation, such as the lack of sustainable demand for locally recycled plastics, and the limited access to finance by recyclers, especially small and medium-sized enterprises.

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The Urban Plastic Reduction Project aims to build pilot models to reduce plastic waste in a number of provinces and cities. Photo: WWF Vietnam

Lack of mechanism to “attract” businesses?

The World Bank’s Country Director in Vietnam, Carolyn Turk, assessed that investment in waste management infrastructure has not yet caught up with the discharge rate. Therefore, the public and private sectors need to work together to solve, while promoting policies and increasing investment to help make full use of the value of plastic materials.

It can be said that Vietnam’s determination to reduce plastic waste has been reflected in many policies issued recently. For example, in 2019, the government launched a nationwide movement against plastic waste, in which to reduce the use of single-use plastic products. Responding to the movement, many ministries, branches and pioneering units “say no to plastic waste”. Also in the Law on Environmental Protection 2020, effective from January 1, 2022, stipulates extended liability of manufacturers (EPR).

Accordingly, with 6 product groups such as: electronics; battery-accumulator; lubricating oil; tires and tubes; transport; packaging, manufacturers and importers must recycle products from the first year of 2024, 2025 or 2027 (depending on the product). As for products such as: plant protection drugs; gum; diapers; cigarette; For products using plastic materials, manufacturers and importers must support waste treatment from the beginning of 2023.

However, although the system of legal documents on waste management has been increasingly improved, the reality shows that there are still many gaps. For example, although there are regulations, there is still no clear sanction to handle companies that do not implement EPR. Responding to the press, Mr. Phan Tuan Hung, Director of the Legal Department, Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, said that EPR is not a universal tool but needs to be combined with other waste management policies such as waste collection and disposal. The fee is based on the volume/weight of waste according to the provisions of the Law on Environmental Protection 2020.

On the other hand, plastic waste accounts for a large amount of the total amount of waste generated, but there are no specific regulations for management, especially single-use plastics. In addition, many experts agree that the current policy system is still inadequate to create incentives to promote the reuse and recycling of plastic waste. For example, at present, there are still no mechanisms and policies to create a market for plastic replacement products, which are mostly based on the voluntary will of individuals, organizations and businesses. Thus, substitute products are hardly able to compete with plastic products in the long term.

This story was originally published in Báo Pháp luật Việt Nam with the support of Climate Tracker.

Trang Do
Do Thuy Trang graduated Cum Laude from Drexel University, United States with a Bachelor degree in Psychology in 2016. After coming back to her home country – Vietnam, she continued to study and earned bachelor degree in Lesgislative Law at Hanoi Law University in 2021. Since 2017, she has worked as a reporter for Vietnam Law Newspaper – a press agency under the Ministry of Justice. She is a prolific and diligent writer, covering various issues such as environment, culture, transportation, tourism.