Solid Waste Management in Vietnam

A Hot Tip about Collection and Treatment of Hazardous Waste in Vietnam

Last updated: 13 Mar 2011


Given Vietnam’s rapid urbanization due to consistently strong economic growth over the past several years, solid waste has become a growing concern of virtually every Vietnamese city. In a recent national survey conducted by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MONRE), nearly 70 percent of Vietnamese municipalities identified solid waste management as one of their top environmental priorities. Important challenges in improving solid waste management include a lack of funding and equipment, lack of public awareness, inconsistent urban planning, and an insufficient legal framework. Further, technical capability for hazardous waste treatment is lacking.


This report provides an overview of the solid waste management sector, consisting of waste generation; waste handling and collection; disposal; treatment and recycling; and management issues such as policy, institutions, budgets, and financing.


Market Demand

Vietnam's waste amounts to over 15 million metric tons each year, with municipal waste from households, restaurants, markets, and businesses sources accounting for over 80 percent of the total. For the most part, municipal waste is concentrated in urban areas, while industrial waste- concentrated in economic zones, industrial parks, and urban areas- accounts for much of the remainder. Hazardous waste from industries and hazardous healthcare waste from hospitals, while much smaller in terms of quantities, are also burning issues because they pose high health and environmental risks if not properly handled and disposed. Given a growing population, rapid urbanization and increased consumption, municipal waste generation is expanding considerably. With this growth, it is anticipated that waste generation will increase to over 23 million metric tons by 2010, and that the types of waste produced will continue to undergo a change from more degradable to less degradable and more hazardous.


Industries are the second significant source of solid waste. Growth in hazardous-waste-intensive industries such as chemical products and electronic products is expected to increase the proportion of hazardous waste generated in Vietnam. There is an urgent need to establish industrial hazardous waste management systems, including both factory-based handling, treatment, and disposal systems, and centralized hazardous waste treatment facilities. Provincial government plans do exist for the development of several centralized facilities in the country, such as for the Le Minh Xuan industrial zone in Ho Chi Minh City and industrial zones in the heavily industrialized province of Dong Nai.


Hazardous healthcare waste is increasing more rapidly as a result of the adoption of new medical techniques, greater use of disposable medical equipment such as plastic syringes, and an increase in tests, therapies, and operations undertaken.


Waste handling in Vietnam, including collection, treatment and disposal is mainly carried out by Public Urban Environment Companies (URENCOs), which are responsible for the collection and disposal of municipal waste, including domestic, institutional, and in most cases also industrial and healthcare waste. Although there have been significant improvements by URENCOs in handling waste, most of the municipal waste in Vietnam is not safely disposed. The dominant form of disposal of municipal waste remains open dumping. In many areas, selfdisposal methods – such as burning or burying waste, or dumping in rivers, canals, and open fields – is common.


Out of the 91 disposal sites in the country, only 17 are sanitary landfills. New landfill facilities are needed across the country. The development of waste treatment and disposal systems, including landfills, has become a priority of the government. Due to the lack of financial resources the government is constructing most sanitary landfills with ODA funding.


Hazardous waste handling remains weak. Industrial hazardous waste treatment systems are largely inadequate.


Given the lack of treatment facilities and limited incentives for safe disposal, many industries use a variety of unsafe methods of treatment and disposal, including allowing URENCOs to collect and dispose the hazardous waste with municipal waste, store hazardous waste onsite, sell to recyclers, or even dump indiscriminately. Hazardous healthcare waste treatment capacity is expanding but is hindered by poor technical capacity. Vietnam has built 43 modern medical waste incinerators since 1997, bringing its total capacity for incineration of hazardous healthcare waste generated up by roughly 50 percent.


Recycling and reuse industries in Vietnam are driven by an informal network of waste pickers at landfills, informal waste collectors, and waste buyers. The market for recyclables has a large potential for expansion. Thirty two percent of the municipal waste currently placed in disposal sites in urban areas in Vietnam (2.1 million metric tons per year) consists of commercially recyclable materials such as paper, plastic, metal, and glass. It is estimated that approximately 20 percent of the municipal waste in Hanoi is recycled. According to World Bank consultants, there is potential to recycle at least two times this amount. For municipal waste, the government should consider subsidizing recycling and treatment facilities, as this will build up municipal capacity to recycle wastes, according to industry insiders. Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MONRE) Decision 03/2004, allowing for the import of waste as materials for domestic production, has facilitated the local recycling business to tap recyclable materials from the Southeast Asian region. Although there have been no national studies on the amount of recycling of industrial waste currently taking place in Vietnam, individual case studies suggest that industrial waste recycling is widespread. At least 80% of non-hazardous industrial waste from steel, mechanical, chemicals/fertilizers, pulp and paper, textiles and food-processing industries is recyclable and the potential savings are high.


The composition of Vietnamese waste makes composting potentially attractive. The high proportion of organic matter in municipal waste provides great potential for composting, which can reduce disposal costs while producing a marketable soil conditioner for agricultural and public uses. Given the strong market for composting fertilizers once source separation becomes successful, the effectiveness of centralized composting facilities could increase considerably.


The government strongly encourages private sector participation in solid waste collection, separation, transportation and treatment. Polluters Pay is compulsory by regulation. Entities generating solid waste are responsible for waste collection, transportation and treatment fees. It is also required that waste be separated at the sources of generation. In order to minimize burying waste, the government recommends new technologies to treat less degradable waste.


Over the past decade, commendable efforts have been made to develop a policy and legal framework for environmental protection, particularly management and disposal of waste streams, namely the Strategy for the Management of Solid Waste (SWM) in Vietnam Cities and Industrial Parks (1999), the National Strategy for Environmental Protection (2003), and the government’s Decree 59/2007/ND-CP, dated April 9, 2007, on Solid Waste Management. These strategies target 90 percent collection of municipal waste, and adequate disposal of over 60 percent of hazardous waste and 100 percent of healthcare waste by 2010. It is generally acknowledged that these targets are very ambitious, and meeting them would require greater investment from the government, the private sector, and international donors.


By Ngo Thuc Anh

Read the full market research report


Posted: 29 April 2010, last updated 13 March 2011

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