An international conference with the theme “Circular Economy – Formula for the Plastic Industry’s Sustainable Development” was held within the Plastics & Rubber Vietnam 2019 event on November 28 in Hanoi by Informa Markets and Messe Duesseldorf Asia.

Addressing the conference, Mr. Hoang Duc Vuong, Head of the Recycled Plastics Unit at the Vietnam Plastics Association, said that regulations in Vietnam have conflicts in the definition of scrap plastic, as it is assumed that waste only comes from production. According to international conventions, waste must be destroyed. Meanwhile, scrap plastic is not completely waste because it is recyclable, but as it is equated as scrap waste, it is banned from import, making it difficult for businesses.

It is estimated that by 2023, the plastics industry will need about 10 million tons of plastic for production and export. According to the master plan for the petrochemical industry and projects, domestic plastic resin production is expected to reach 2.6 million tons, accounting for 26 per cent, while the remaining 7.4 million tons will be imported.

“Vietnam’s plastics industry is continuously developing, with growth of 15-20 per cent, and has a large geographical area for both exports and domestic consumption,” Mr. Vuong said. “However, 80 per cent of plastic materials are currently imported. One of the reasons the plastics industry relies so heavily on imported raw materials is that Vietnam’s plastic recycling industry has not yet developed.”

“The promotion of recycling and reuse has not been promoted because the legal system has not encouraged recycling, law enforcement monitoring is not tight, and there is no proper investment in the recycling industry,” said Mr. Pham Hoang Hai, Head of the Secretariat at the Vietnam Business Council for Sustainable Development under the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI). “For businesses, short-term solutions have failed and made no difference, and the amount of raw materials for recycling only accounted for a very small part of the total product sent to market.”

Dr. Nguyen Thi Van Ha, Dean of the Faculty of Environment at the University of Resources and Environment, Ho Chi Minh City, said that Vietnamese enterprises, especially small and medium-sized enterprises, need to think about a circular economy in their business models. Instead of having to come up with new solutions, Vietnamese enterprises can refer and apply lessons learned elsewhere in the circular economic model. In particular, a number of key points to note include changing thinking from a linear economy to circular, treating waste as a new source of raw materials for production, studying nature’s ability to regenerate and circulate, realizing that all resources are limited and production is based on such limits; and being aware of industrial symbiosis, the use of renewable energy, and cleaner production.

“The recycling of scrap plastic brings high economic efficiency, competitive output prices, and contributes to environmental protection,” said Dr. Lai Van Manh, Head of the Department of Economics of Natural Resources and Environment at the Institute of Strategy and Policy on Natural Resources and Environment (ISPONRE). “This is a direction many plastics businesses are looking to in sustainable development.”

VCCI has built knowledge about secondary material markets in Vietnam based on information technology. In particular, businesses can join networks to share information, targeting waste sources in the industry as a source of raw materials.

Dr. Manh added that many plastics businesses expect the State to have policies to help the industry develop waste recycling, on the basis of harmonizing the interests of enterprises, the State, and society while protecting the environment.

The Vietnam Environment Protection Fund has a preferential interest rate policy for investment projects in the fields of collection, transportation, and treatment of ordinary solid waste, including plastic; enterprises and projects manufacturing and importing special-use machinery and equipment used directly in gathering and transporting; and products from recycling and waste treatment activities certified by competent State agencies.