Having been existed for nearly half a century, the recycling industry in Vietnam has grown, and now, it has thousands of spontaneous plastic recycling villages, and a network of thousands of scrap collectors.
Despite of its development in a long time, the area attracts little attention and support from policy making level, leading to the results that recycling activities are mainly done in household, creating poor quality recycled products, and causing pollution.
“There were so many difficulties that I had to go bankrupt,” Hoang Duc Vuong, chairman of VietCycle Corporation, a pioneer in environmental protection, recalls.
Scrap collectors in recycling industry are no better, when they are not equipped with labor protection equipment, nor are they allowed to pay health and social insurance.
Economic development through recent years in Vietnam with larger amount of waste put more pressure on the industry, and can even lead to a social crisis. However, for Vuong, this is seen as an opportunity, and this is the reason why in 2018, he decided to establish VietCycle to tackle the problem.
Overcome social prejudice
Although being an important solution to reduce waste, recycling activities had been named as a culprit of secondary pollution for many years. Sometimes, it got lots of attentions from public, press, related government agencies, but almost all opinions were to ban, to quit instead of supporting the industry.
Deeply understanding the pain of people in the field, Vuong decided to raise their voices. "We must speak up to change the public’s thought and approach on waste treatment issue," said Vuong.
With strong determination, VietCycle and other scientists and the businesses have consistently emphasize the vital role of the recycling industry for years, and then, proposed supported policies for circular economy and recycling activities.
When green economy and sustainable development trend becomes clearer and is embraced globally, those proposals have been welcomed and considered for implementation by the government and its bodies like Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment.
Thanks to that, the recycling industry is gradually recognized and encouraged, and then, there are more policies to support it, opening up unprecedented opportunities for its business and people.
To help scrap collectors – most are middle-aged women, VietCycle designed support programs providing training courses on how to collect and classify properly. They not only have the opportunity to learn to improve their skills, thereby increasing their income, but also have a place to share and receive affection from their colleagues.
VietCycle also organize annual gratitude ceremony to honor female waste collectors.
For Vuong, these activities aim to prove one thing that scrap collection is a noble profession, silently contributing to environmental protection.
Taking effect in January 2022, Law on Environmental Protection (LEP) 2020 highlights the responsibilities of ministries and localities to integrate circular economy in planning strategies, development plans, waste management, and waste recycling.
It introduces the concept of circular economy through fostering extended producer responsibility (EPR) policy, highlighting the responsibility of producers and importers to recycle products and packaging.
Specifically, the law requires that domestic solid wastes must be sorted into reusable or recyclable solid wastes, food wastes, and other solid domestic wastes.
Vuong stated that the law opens up opportunities for the recycling industry to transform, becoming a more modern one, and then, contributing more to the circular economy in Vietnam.
It also proves that the sustainable solution to solve the waste problem is to collect, sort and recycle right in the country.
Last year, VietCycle launched CyclePacking vending machine that automates sales transactions. Customers bring their own containers to be refilled by the machine for laundry detergent, softener, dishwashing liquid, and floor cleaner, and pay via a QR code.
This solution is expected to encourage people to reuse packaging, reduce plastic packaging waste and change their shopping habits.
Vuong revealed that in the future, he and his business want to connect and support more scrap collectors, and even create their own representative organization that can ensure their legal rights like other professions.