After the enactment of the Law on Environmental Protection 2014 (LEP 2014), there have been positive changes in the perspective in which the Government protects the environment by laws. The LEP 2014 has become an important legal instrument in environmental pollution control, contributing to sustainable development in Việt Nam. There has been a separate section on waste management in the LEP 2014 that specifies the responsibilities of each entity in waste management and specific requirements for management of ordinary or hazardous waste. However, during the implementation in practice, a number of shortcomings of such provisions can be revealed. Accordingly, it is urgent to revise the regulations on waste management to address the new arising issues as well as respond to climate change.
In the Draft LEP (revised), there are many revised or supplemented regulations on waste management. For example, the management of radioactive waste is now regulated in the Atomic Energy Law instead of the LEP. The LEP (revised) also further defines the classification of ordinary solid waste... These revisions reflect progressive changes that are consistent with reality. Reviewing the LEP 2014 and the Draft LEP (revised), this article points out some specific measures to finalize the provisions, contributing to improving the efficiency of waste management in Việt Nam.
Encourage the collection and reuse of waste
Firstly, the provision of waste exchange should be added.
Following the traditional approach in Việt Nam, a common management process, including reducing, sorting, collection, treatment and disposal are applied to all types of waste or materials discarded from human activities. Therefore, an economic perspective of waste has not been considered. Furthermore, waste seems to become a burden for society because of environmental impacts and treatment costs. On the other hand, some of the discarded materials can be recycled, reused or be an alternative source for raw materials. When natural resources are increasingly becoming scared, this approach can be regarded as an effective measure to control environmental pollution, protect natural resources, and ensure sustainable development.
The LEP 2014 has stipulated a provision in which the recycling and reuse of waste in manufacturing establishments have been encouraged. In fact, this provision is too general and is understood as “voluntary” rather “mandatory”. Besides, waste management in practice in many countries has illustrated the economic and environmental value of waste exchange between manufacturing establishments. Accordingly, waste generated from a manufacturing establishment can become a source of raw materials for more than one counterpart. Consequently, it not only helps to reduce production costs but also prevents environmental pollution or over-exploitation of natural resources. Therefore, it is essential to develop new provisions on waste exchange to create a legal basis for waste exchange activities, and thereby make better use of economic and environmental values.
Secondly, the LEP (revised) should have a provision on specialized staff in charge of waste management at manufacturing establishments generating waste.
Waste management is specific work so that it requires the assigned staff at manufacturing establishments to have expertise in this field. However, the enterprises have not given priority to waste management, especially in the case of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) . As a result, waste management is not effective. Therefore, the new provision should be supplemented in which it is mandatory to have professional staff in charge of pollution control in enterprises. This staff shall be provided training courses on environmental pollution control and waste management. For that reason, they will be able to detect environmental uncertainties in the enterprise before such uncertainties happen to ensure proactiveness in the prevention of environmental pollution while minimizing burdens on waste management related administrative procedures.
In the case of SMEs generating a small amount of waste, a staff specialized in waste management shall undergo relevant training courses, obtain necessary certifications, and help to show the enterprise’s corporate social responsibility. Besides, it also prescribes more strict requirements for the assigned staff if the enterprise discharges a large amount of waste into the environment that imposes seriously negative environmental impacts.
Thirdly, it should remove several overlapping provisions on waste management in manufacturing, trading and service activities
Manufacturing, trading and service establishments in all sectors are the source of waste. Thus, it is crucial to implement waste management in such establishments and waste management becomes the responsibility of the owners of establishments. The LEP 2014 has introduced many provisions on environmental protection in each manufacturing, trading and service sectors together with requirements for waste management. Specifically, Article 38 regulates environmental protection during the exploration, extracion and processing of minerals in which “organizations and individuals conducting mineral exploration, mining and processing must take preventive measures and responses to environmental incidents and comply with requirements for environmental protection, rehabilitation, and remediation, for example, provisions on wastewater and solid waste collection and treatment”. In addition, Article 69 stated environmental protection in agricultural production in which “concentrated breeding zones must have an environmental protection plan and are required to ensure environmental sanitation for residential areas; collect and treat wastewater and solid waste in accordance with waste management regulations”. Article 79 defines environmental protection in research institutes and laboratories. Accordingly, research institutes and laboratories must comply with environmental protection requirements such as “collection and treatment of wastewater under environmental technical regulations; classification of solid waste at source; collection and disposal of solid waste under laws on solid waste management…”.
The requirements for waste management in the manufacturing, trading and service sectors mentioned above are necessary. However, these requirements cause overlapping in LEP 2014. Accordingly, there are general provisions on responsibilities for management of wastewater, solid waste and emissions for all organizations and individuals that generate waste during their activities. Regardless of waste from agricultural production or research institutes and laboratories, or during mineral exploration, mining and processing, the owners of the establishments must follow general requirements for waste management. Therefore, it is not logical to restate these requirements in each sector within the same Law, except for specific requirements.
Fourthly, it should stipulate the responsibility of waste generators in waste classification
Under LEP 2014, Article 86 prescribes reduction, reuse and recycling of waste in which “waste that can be reused, recycled and used as energy must be classified”. However, the responsibility for waste classification has not yet been specified. The question is who has obligations to classify waste: waste generator, individual or organization in charge of waste transport and disposal or authorities?
Based on the scientific and practical approach, it can be seen that waste sorting at source is an effective solution in terms of both economic and environmental aspects. However, the current general provision of waste classification cannot assign responsibilities to any entity in waste management. It is thought that responsibility for waste classification should be clearly defined, firstly for the owners of waste sources and following by relevant entities such as owners of waste transport and treatment in the case the owners of waste sources do not fulfill this obligation for specific reasons. This content has been included in Article 44 of the Draft LEP (revised) on reduction, reuse, and recycling of solid waste. Nevertheless, this new provision does not specify who is in charge of waste classification. Besides, the waste generators are only required to reduce, reuse, recycle and recover energy from waste. As a result, it is more appropriate to integrate the waste generators’ responsibility for waste sorting at source in the group of general provisions on waste management.
Fifthly, the current provision on manufacturing, importing, transporting, trading and using firecrackers and firework should be defined in other laws.
Provisions on management and control of noise, vibration, light and radiation in Clause 4, Article 103 of the LEP 2014 say: “It is prohibited to manufacture, import, transport, trade and use of firecrackers”. The manufacture, import, transport, trade and use of fireworks are under the Prime Minister's Decision. This provision is necessary for the context of Việt Nam but should not be included in the group of regulations on management and control of noise, vibration, light, and radiation. Firstly, firecrackers and fireworks are not waste. Waste generated from the production, import, transport and use of firecrackers and fireworks is not a big issue that requires a specific management procedure. Secondly, such prohibition aims to contribute to explosive management rather than management of and control of noise or vibration generated during the manufacturing, importing, transporting, trading and using firecrackers as defined in regulations on waste management. Consequently, it would be more reasonable to regulate this matter in other laws, namely law on explosives management.
In summary, there are a number of shortcomings in LEP 2014 after more than five years of implementation. Accordingly, it is crucial to eliminate these shortcomings to improve the effectiveness of environmental control in Việt Nam in the coming years.
Assoc. Prof. Dr. Vũ Thị Duyên Thủy
Hanoi University of Law
(Nguồn: Bài đăng trên Tạp chí Môi trường số Chuyên đề Tiếng Anh I/2020)