Currently, marine litter is present in all marine habitats with about 8 million tons, or about 3% of global plastic waste annually dumped into marine and ocean environments. Việt Nam is being considered as one of the countries with a large amount of plastic waste released into the environment and is polluting the environment, harming the ecosystem and degrading the beauty of many beaches. The Law on Environmental Protection (LEP) 2014 does not have separate provisions on plastic waste management, but there are many related regulations on solid waste management such as regulations on solid waste classification, collection and treatment, encouraging the production of environmentally friendly products, controlling imported scrap... However, the plastic waste management still has many limitations such as not having strict control from the stage of plastic product manufacturing, product and scrap importation, the domestic solid waste collection and treatment are still weak... Overcoming these limitations, the LEP 2020 continues to inherit the provisions of the LEP 2014 and amends, supplements new provisions with many contents to strengthen the plastic waste control in our country. Two large groups of contents are specified in the LEP 2020, which are to limit the plastic waste generation and to effectively manage the generated plastic waste.
Reducing the plastic waste generated right from the production stage or reducing the plastic waste generated during the production, consumption and importation of plastic products is one of the basic and long-term measures to reduce plastic waste generation. Therefore, measures such as promoting the circular economy development, encouraging recycling, reusing waste, expanding the responsibilities of manufacturers, encouraging the production of environmentally friendly products to replace plastic products and limiting the import of plastic products and plastic scrap from abroad are measures prescribed by the LEP 2020.
Developing a circular economy
For the first time, the circular economy is prescribed in the LEP 2020. The circular economy is prescribed as one of the State's policies on environmental protection, accordingly the formulation and implementation of socio-economic development strategies, masterplans, plans, programs, schemes and projects must integrate and promote circular economy models. The LEP also clearly stipulates what the circular economy is, and the responsibilities of organizations and individuals involved. Circular economy is an economic model in which design, production, consumption and service activities are aimed at reducing the exploitation of raw materials and materials, prolonging the product life cycle, limiting waste generation and minimizing adverse impact on the environment. According to this definition, the stages from design, production, consumption and service, besides the goal of reducing input materials, all aim to prolong the product life cycle. When the product life cycle is prolonged with activities such as recycling, reuse, and closed its life cycle, there will be no, or very little waste generated into the environment. When the circular economy development is promoted, less plastic waste will also be generated to the environment.
To ensure the circular economy development, the LEP has stipulated specific responsibilities of relevant agencies. Ministries, ministerial-level agencies and provincial People's Committees shall integrate circular economy right from the stage of formulating development strategies, masterplans, plans, programs and schemes, waste management, reuse and recycling. Production, business and service establishments are responsible for establishing a management system and taking measures to reduce resource exploitation, reduce waste, and raise the level of waste reuse and recycling right from the project formulation, product and goods design to production and distribution. In addition, to facilitate the smooth implementation of these provisions, the National Assembly assigned the Government to stipulate criteria, roadmap and mechanisms to encourage the implementation of the circular economy in accordance with the country's socio-economic conditions.
Encouraging plastic waste recycling and reuse
In addition to the provisions that continue to encourage waste recycling and reuse activities in general, which are stipulated in the LEP 2014, the LEP 2020 also specifically stipulates the plastic waste recycling and reuse to reduce the generation of plastic waste into the environment. Even in the principle of environmental protection, the principle of increasing waste reuse and recycling is confirmed to exploit the resource value of waste. Also, the State's policy on environmental protection also affirms the policy of strengthening scientific research, developing technology for pollution reduction, waste recycling and treatment. As for plastic waste, the LEP 2020 stipulates that the State encourages the plastic waste reuse and recycling in service of production of goods, building materials, and transportation works with policies to promote the plastic waste reuse and recycling.
Provisions on expanding manufacturer's responsibilities
In addition, the LEP 2020 for the first time has provisions on expanding manufacturer's responsibilities. Specifically, organizations and individuals that manufacture and import products and packages with recyclable value must recycle according to the mandatory recycling rates and specifications, except for products and packages that are for export or temporary import for re-export or production or import for the purpose of researching, studying or testing. These organizations or individuals may choose to recycle products and packages in one of two forms: (1) Organize the recycling of products and packages by themselves; (2) Provide financial contribution to the Vietnam Environmental Protection Fund to support the recycling of products and packages.
In case organizations and individuals choose the form of financial contribution, the contribution and use of financial contribution to support the recycling of products and packages must ensure the following principles: Level of financial contribution and the level of funding to support recycling are determined by volume or unit of product or package; Financial contribution used to support the recycling of products and packages is specified in Clause 1 of this Article; The receipt and use of financial contribution must be public, transparent and for the right purposes in accordance with the law.
Regulations on expanding manufacturer's responsibilities have been applied by many countries and are highly effective in reducing generation of waste in general and plastic waste. Especially, plastic packages in Việt Nam are generating too much plastic waste, therefore, good implementation of regulations on expanding manufacturer's responsibilities for recycling waste after generation will reduce the amount of plastic waste released into the environment.
Promoting eco-friendly products
Replacing plastic products with environmentally friendly products will reduce the risk of generating plastic waste, especially persistent plastic bags. Therefore, the LEP 2020 stipulates that environmentally friendly products, substitutes for single-use plastic products and certified substitutes for non-biodegradable plastic packages shall enjoy incentives and supports in accordance with the law.
Restricting the import of plastic products and plastic scrap from overseas
In recent years, the increased import of plastic scrap, along with the backlog of plastic scrap at ports, has put great pressure on the environment. To solve this problem, for the first time, the LEP 2020 stipulates that the Government prescribes a roadmap to limit the production and import of single-use plastic products, non-biodegradable plastic packages, products and goods containing microplastics. With this restriction, non-biodegradable plastic products are restricted step by step from being imported into our country, avoiding the risk of generating non-degradable plastic waste.
In addition, the import of scrap from overseas has been stipulated in the LEP 2014 and is stipulated with stricter conditions to reduce the risk of losing control over scrap after being imported, causing harm to the environment. Specifically, scrap imported from overseas into Việt Nam must meet environmental technical regulations and be on the List of scrap permitted for import from overseas for use as production materials promulgated by the Prime Minister. Also, organizations and individuals may only import scrap from overseas as production materials for their production facilities and must satisfy the following environmental protection requirements: (1) Having a production facility with technology and equipment for recycling and reuse, warehouses and yards dedicated to scrap collection meeting requirements on environmental protection; having a plan to deal with the accompanying impurities suitable for imported scrap; (2) Having an environmental license; (3) Having deposit for environmental protection as prescribed before the time the scrap is unloaded at the port for import via sea border gate or before the time of import into Việt Nam for other cases; (4) Having a written commitment on the re-export or treatment of scrap in case the imported scrap does not meet the requirements on environmental protection.
2. The LEP 2020 has new provisions to effectively manage the generated plastic waste
New provisions on domestic solid waste management
In recent years, the largest source of solid waste released into the environment is from domestic solid waste. With limited resources for domestic solid waste collection and treatment, the LEP 2020 has breakthrough provisions to improve the domestic waste classification, collection and treatment.
On the one hand, the Law stipulates the general requirements of waste such that waste must be managed in the entire process of generation, reduction, classification, collection, storage, transhipment, transportation, reuse, recycling, treatment, disposal; Organizations and individuals transporting domestic solid waste, which must be treated, are responsible for transporting waste to establishments with appropriate environmental functions and licenses or transferring them to other transport organizations and individuals for transportation to such establishments having appropriate environmental functions, licenses, etc. On the other hand, the Law has its own provisions on domestic solid waste management. Domestic solid waste from households and individuals is classified according to the following principles: (1) Solid waste capable of being reused and recycled; (2) Food waste; (3) Other domestic solid waste.
Households and individuals in urban areas must store and contain domestic solid waste after sorting into packages for transfer as follows: Solid waste capable of being reused or recycled shall be transferred to organizations or individuals for reuse or recycling or to establishments having the collecting and transporting functions; Food waste and other domestic solid waste must be contained, packed in packages according to regulations and transferred to establishments having the collecting and transporting functions; Food waste can be used as organic fertilizers, as animal feeds.
The Law stipulates that the classification of domestic solid waste contained in certain packages according to regulations is a new management method for domestic solid waste. This packaging is the basis for strengthening the management of the classification and pricing of the packaging to collect the fee of collection, transportation and treatment services. The service fee for collection, transportation and treatment of domestic solid waste from households and individuals is calculated on the basis of: (1) Provisions of law on prices; (2) Weight or volume of the sorted waste; (3) Solid waste that can be reused, recycled, and hazardous waste generated from households and individuals that have been classified separately are not required to pay for collection, transportation and treatment service fee.
New methods and approaches in domestic solid waste management, if effectively implemented, promise to improve significantly the domestic solid waste management and avoid releasing plastic waste into the environment as it is at present.
Responsibilities for waste collection and treatment of producing and importing organizations and individuals
In order to strengthen the responsibilities of producers and importers for certain types of waste with high risk to the environment produced or imported by them, the LEP 2020 stipulates that organizations and individuals producing and importing products and packages containing toxic substances that are difficult to recycle or cause difficulties for collection and treatment must make financial contribution to the Vietnam Environmental Protection Fund; The level of financial contribution is determined by volume or unit of product or packaging to support the following specified activities (except for products that are for export or temporary import for re-export or production or import for the purpose of researching, studying or testing): (1) Collecting, transporting and treating domestic solid waste from households and individuals; (2) Researching and developing technology, techniques and initiatives for domestic solid waste treatment; (3) Collecting, transporting and treating packages containing pesticides.
Regulations on responsibilities of organizations and individuals involved in plastic waste collection
The LEP 2014 stipulates the solid waste collection in general, there is no separate provision on the plastic waste collection. The LEP 2020 has specific provisions on the plastic waste collection from different sources. Specifically, the Law stipulates that plastic waste generated from marine tourism and services, maritime economy, extraction of oil and gas and marine mineral resources, aquaculture and commercial fishing must be collected, stored and transferred to facilities licensed for recycling and treatment.Plastic waste must be collected and classified for reuse, recycling or treatment purpose as prescribed by law. Unrecyclable plastic waste must be transferred to licensed facilities for treatment as prescribed. Plastic waste from economic activities at sea must be collected for reuse, recycling or treatment and must not be discharged into the sea. Organizations and individuals are responsible for limiting the use, minimizing, classifying and disposing of single-use plastic products and non-biodegradable plastic packages according to regulations; not dispose plastic waste directly into drainage systems, ponds, lakes, channels, rivers and oceans.
In addition, the LEP 2020 also has a new provision on the responsibilities for collecting plastic waste after it has been released into the environment to solve the problem of plastic waste pollution in the environment. Specifically, the provincial People's Committee is responsible for directing the organization of collection and treatment of plastic waste in the area; propagating and advocating on the restriction of the use of non-biodegradable plastic packages and single-use plastic products; propagating on the harmful effects of disposing of fishing gear directly into the sea, plastic waste on the ecosystem.
In summary, the LEP 2020 has many new contents compared to the LEP 2014, specifically the provisions related to the issue of plastic waste. On the one hand, the Law has focused on new provisions, amendments and supplements to the provisions of the LEP 2014 with new approaches to solve the problem of plastic waste arising such as waste classification, collection, transportation and treatment; collection and treatment of plastic waste that has released into the environment. On the other hand, the Law stipulates many revolutionary contents to prevent and minimize the generation of plastic waste right from the production and import stages, such as: promoting the circular economy development, regulations on expanding responsibilities of manufacturers, encouraging recycling, reuse, production of environmentally friendly products, and restricting the import of plastic products and plastic scrap. Effective implementation of these provisions will bring a new step forward in the plastic waste management, protection of the environment, ecosystem and human health.
Phạm Thị Gấm
Department of Policy and Legislation,
Vietnam Administration of Seas and Islands
(Source: Vietnam Environment Administration Magazine, English Edition III - 2021)