Currently, the amount of plastic waste and plastic bags nationwide accounts for about 8 - 12% of domestic solid waste, if there is no effective management solution, this will be a burden for the environment. Therefore, in order to minimize the amount of plastic waste to the environment, contributing to the development of the circular economy, in addition to the close coordination among Ministries and branches, many models as well as research studies to perfect the waste recycling and treatment technology in accordance with Vietnam's conditions are required. At the workshop on Circular economy model implementation promotion in Việt Nam organized by the Vietnam Business Council for Sustainable Development (VBCSD), the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI), the Vietnam Environment Administration Magazine (VEM) had an interview with Mr. Phạm Hoàng Hải - VBCSD Coordinator on this issue.
VEM: What do you think about the situation of plastic bag and plastic waste generation nationwide?
Mr. Phạm Hoàng Hải: Currently, plastic products and plastic bags become more popular items in human life. According to statistics, each Vietnamese household discharges more than 1 plastic bag per day, leading to millions of plastic bags being disposed of every day. However, it takes hundreds, even thousands of years, for plastic waste to decompose; at the same time, burning plastic waste will produce poisonous emissions containing dioxin and furan substances, which are persistent in the environment and adversely affect human health.
Mr. Phạm Hoàng Hải - VBCSD Coordinator
Việt Nam currently ranks 4th in the world in terms of plastic waste amount discharged into the sea (each year, there are about 730.000 tons of plastic waste to the sea, 80% of which originates from the mainland). It is worrisome that most local people, as well as tourists, are not well aware of the danger of plastic waste pollution, leading to many beautiful tourist sites to become "black spots" of environmental pollution.
VEM: In order to promote the circular economy development, the VBCSD's Initiative of Zero Waste to Nature (VCCI) has been launched, could you please tell us more about this initiative?
Mr. Phạm Hoàng Hải: If "circular way of thinking" is thoroughly applied in the design, production and recycling of goods, the circular economy will create a market opportunity worth at least 4,5 trillion dollars for enterprises, creating hundreds of millions of jobs, helping enterprises reduce risks due to material scarcity and orienting enterprises to operate under the Strategy of green growth and national sustainable development.
On January 23, 2018, the VBCSD's Initiative of Zero Waste to Nature was launched. This is an activity within the Project framework of the Vietnam Center for Circular Economy (VCCE), chaired by the VBCSD, in coordination with the Unilever Vietnam International Co., Ltd., the Coca-Cola Beverages Vietnam Limited and the Dow Chemical Vietnam Limited Liability Company.
As a pioneering step towards the circular economy for a sustainable Việt Nam, the Initiative aims at 4 goals: To solve problems arising from plastic waste; To develop a roadmap to formulate and promote sustainable business models; To develop a value chain in the direction of circular economy; To propose policies to facilitate the circular economy implementation in Việt Nam. In the first stage, the main activity of the Initiative is sorting waste at source in Tân Phú District (Hồ Chí Minh City), which is implemented by the Unilever in collaboration with the Hồ Chí Minh City Urban Environment Co., Ltd (CITENCO).
After that, the Initiative will be implemented in the plastic sector for 5 years (2018 - 2022), with the pioneering of the Unilever Vietnam International Co., Ltd., the Coca-Cola Beverages Vietnam Limited and the Dow Chemical Vietnam LLC. On that basis, the Program will replicate the model with the participation of other enterprises in the aluminum, steel, cement, glass, wood and agriculture sectors…, thereby forming a sustainable circular economy model and developing a market of recycled and reused materials in Việt Nam.
VEM: In your opinion, what activities should the Việt Nam’s Government implement to promote the circular economy?
Mr. Phạm Hoàng Hải: Circular economy is an economic model, in which the design, production and service activities aim to extend the material life and eliminate negative impacts on the environment. If the linear economic model is only interested in the exploitation of natural resources, production and disposal of products after consumption, creating a large amount of waste, then the circular economy focuses on managing and regenerating resources in a closed cycle, to avoid creating waste. The utilization of resources for the circular economy is done through various forms such as repair, reuse, recycling, share, or lease of materials.
The era of the linear economy is over, we cannot just exploit, use and dispose materials and products after the expiry of use value. In the context of natural resources becoming increasingly exhausted, the circular economy model has proven effective in creating new business opportunities and profit sources based on the principle of using natural resources, materials and ancillary materials properly.
Therefore, in order to apply the circular economy model in Việt Nam, first of all, it is necessary to complete the system of management, environmental protection, financial and commercial policies, to consider common wastes as secondary materials for other industries; to have material treatment technology, to carry out research on new materials with greater flexibility, applicability and durability. In addition, the investment in and testing of innovative business models are necessary.
VEM: What do you think about the circular economy model development capacity of manufacturing enterprises in Việt Nam?
Mr. Phạm Hoàng Hải: It is feasible for manufacturing enterprises in Việt Nam to apply this model. Besides, the business community, including manufacturing enterprises are currently of high concern and awareness on the circular economy. There are nearly 200 enterprises from industries of wood processing, seafood, leather and footwear, garment, fast-moving consumer goods and food processing, paper production, information technology, participating in the workshop on Circular economy implementation promotion in Việt Nam. With the nature of a closed cycle, the circular economy needs to mobilize multi-sector participation, through which the secondary materials of one sector can become inputs of high economic value and use value for other sectors. The more active the participation of many enterprises, the higher the feasibility of the circular economy model shall be.
Besides, although most domestic enterprises are small and medium-sized enterprises, many enterprises are the suppliers of other large enterprises as they own human resources with high creativity, quick learning and good workmanship. Therefore, the re-design of products with high applicability, long life cycle, good durability and resistance and the design of streamlined production processes, using secondary materials as a replacement, saving energy, or using clean energy sources, are feasible. These are the basic principles for an enterprise to start implementing the circular economy within the company’s production line.
Finally, the circular economy model is the main concern of the Government. In the coming time, the policies to create a legal framework to help the circulation of primary/secondary materials among enterprises and industries become favorable, as well as those to support investment activities for the circular business model will also gradually be issued. The agencies consulting and supporting enterprises to implement the circular economy as being implemented at the VCCI, the VBCSD will be established. Enterprises can participate in initiatives such as Zero Waste to Nature and activities of training, propagating knowledge, providing information and sharing models to find suitable activities for their companies. As a result, enterprises can remove difficulties and carry out production and business activities in a more favorable circular orientation.
VEM: Thank you very much!
Vũ Nhung (Implemented)