The event was held in collaboration with Vung Tau People’s Committee, Cities Development Initiative for Asia (CDIA), Alliance to End Plastic Waste, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Vietnam, Norwegian Siam Cement Group (SCG), TOMRA AS, and Norwegian Foundation for Scientific and Industrial Research (SINTEF).

Photo: ADB

The event spotlighted the attendance of Norwegian Deputy Head of Mission, Mr Jan Wilhelm Grythe, ADB Vietnam Country Director Mr Andrew Jeffries, VEA Deputy Director General Mr Nguyen Hung Thinh. The webinar also welcomed the participation, online and physical, of the event’s partners, keynote speakers including UNDP Vietnam, and over 100 people representing international donors, foreign missions in Vietnam, relevant departments of MONRE and VEA, local and international institutes, NGOs, universities, and the business community, who are active in supporting and promoting a circular economy in Vietnam.

Speakers at the Webinar shared their insights and experiences concerning holistic solid waste management & climate change; importance of government & local collaboration to reach circular economy & net zero emission goals; how to catalyze collective actions and investments in circular economy, and holistic resource system and solutions for optimized waste management towards circularity and carbon neutrality.

The Cities Development Initiative for Asia (CDIA) committed to provide a Technical Assistance to Vung Tau city. Within the framework of this TA Agreement, CDIA will prepare a holistic solid waste management investment program for Vung Tau City that includes waste disposal, collection, sorting, recycling and treatment, as well as final disposal. It will first prepare a feasibility study exploring priority plastic waste project components in partnership with the Alliance to End Plastic Waste (Alliance).

The project aims to build a strong stakeholder network among international & local organizations, research institutes, businesses, and national government (MONRE, DONRE, Vung Tau People’s Committee) to manage the solid waste across the value chain and catalyze investment to help minimize plastic waste leakage into the nature. By having world leading organizations and industry stakeholders in the project, this could help leverage the knowledge and successful experiences to local authorities in Vietnam in general and in Vung Tau city in particular to achieve circularity and climate change goals.

“Norway’s multi-stakeholder model where the government agencies work and coordinate closely with researchers/academia, private sector, and NGOs in policy making and implementation has been proven successful in all sectors including circular economy for plastics. We would like to share this model with Vietnam as it has enabled Norway to achieve our circularity goals. The Norwegian participants at the workshop reflects this model of synergies particularly with the presence of international development organizations and financing institutions such as ADB - a close partner of Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Asia and UNDP”, said Norwegian Deputy Head of Mission Jan Wilhelm Grythe in his opening remarks.

“Urbanization and the rapid generation of waste have accompanied Viet Nam’s growth in recent years. Even as many cities have become the center of economic activities, many of them require improvements in key urban infrastructure and services, including solid waste management. The Vung Tau Solid Waste Management Project Preparation Study is one of the pathways by which ADB is supporting the Government of Viet Nam toward a green recovery post-COVID and a low-carbon growth strategy. The pandemic offers an opportunity to rebuild our communities using more sustainable models to create a better, greener future for all. And one approach is by transitioning to a circular economy”, said ADB Country Director Andrew Jeffries.

An estimated 9.3 billion tons of virgin plastics was produced globally up to 2019. Out of this, 6.3 billion tonnes have already ended up being plastic wastes; of this, only 9% was recycled, 12% incinerated and 79% dumped – implying that more than 5 billion tonnes of plastic wastes are today accumulated in dumpsites/landfills around the world.  This will slowly break-down and be released to groundwater & rivers and constitute a continuous source of microplastics to our Oceans. How to reduce that amount of 5 billion tonnes of plastic wastes or can we turn it into something valuable? There is a way when there is a will!

Vietnam has set ambitious targets to reduce, reuse and recycle (3R) plastic wastes. An example is Decision 1316/QD-TTg issued on 22 July 2021 by Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh on strengthening management of plastic wastes in Vietnam, which targets at 85% of generated plastic wastes being collected, reused, recycled and disposed of; 50% of marine plastic wastes being reduced; 100% of tourist attractions, tourist accommodation establishments and hotels not using non-biodegradable plastic bags and single-use plastic products; etc.  Most recently, MONRE, in partnership with UNDP Vietnam, launched the Vietnam Circular Economy Hub to raise awareness and build the capacity of all stakeholders, including public authorities, businesses, civil society, academia, in adopting the CE principles, creating synergies, and integrating financial and technical resources to support the transition towards a low-carbon and circular Viet Nam. It is time to walk the talk, and everyone should play their roles.

According to Deputy Chairman of the Vung Tau City People’s Committee, Vo Hong Thuan “Reducing plastic wastes is extremely important and practical.  We see this as the task of not only the City’s administration, our departments but also local people, entities and business community.  Everyone has a role to play. Although we have issued a plan for wastes sorting and reducing undisposable plastic products, it is yet to be effective due to the social distancing measures and limited public awareness. As the plastic waste treatment infrastructure remains incomplete, it is difficult to initially collect, sort, transport and dispose the plastic wastes properly. Therefore, we hope to have more opportunities to work with local and foreign partners to develop and implement feasible and sustainable models for Vung Tau”.

“Vietnam is among the global pioneers in adopting system changes to accommodate the building of a circular economy for plastics… For it to succeed and to reduce plastic pollution, the Government, research agencies and people of Vietnam as well as the world at large need to proactively implement policies on promoting sustainable practices for production, business and consumption; waste management towards treating waste as a resource; expanding producers’ responsibility for waste recycling and treatment; promoting reuse and recycling of plastic waste in tandem with limiting uses of single-use non-biodegradable plastic packages”, said VEA Deputy Director General Nguyen Hung Thinh.

In COP26, Vietnam signed a Global Coal to Clean Power Transition Statement and Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh made a bold commitment that Viet Nam targets at a net zero goal by 2050. This shows Vietnam’s strong political will to make a significant contribution to keeping 1.5 degrees within reach, and stop catastrophic global warming as aimed in the Paris Agreement. Indeed, this is the right time to mainstream a circular economy for plastics to use resources wisely, reduce emissions efficiently, and restore the environment. Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh also emphasized the need for international support and cooperation to help Vietnam reach this goal.

At the event, all the stakeholders including Norway, international donors, academia and the private sector showed their commitment to supporting the Government of Vietnam in building a successful circular economy for plastics, and thus helping Vietnam to fulfil its environmental commitments and to ensure a sustainable and greener economic growth./.

Khac Kien