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What are the biggest barriers that make it difficult for businesses and consumers to move towards sustainable production and plastic waste reduction?
|Assoc Prof. Dr. Nguyen Dinh Tho, general director of the Institute of Strategy and Policy on Natural Resources and Environment|
The awareness and needs of businesses for sustainable production and reduction of plastic waste are still limited. Businesses themselves are not aware of their roles, meanings, and responsibilities in sustainable production and reduction of plastic waste, and practical implementation is still a challenge.
Nowadays, people’s awareness regarding the use of plastic bags and other single-use plastic products has also improved a lot compared to before. Most consumers are aware of the need to protect the environment, limit plastic waste, and make every effort to fulfil this responsibility. However, the collection and classification are not strong, making it difficult for people to recycle and find ways to properly classify them for reuse.
The Law on Environmental Protection in 2020 passed by the National Assembly has emphasised that the development of a circular and green and low-carbon economy is the focus of Vietnam. The Institute of Strategy and Policy on Natural Resources and Environment (ISPONRE) is also tasked with developing a national action plan for the circular economy that will be issued by the government by the end of 2024.
In the regulation of the circular economy, we require a reduction in the use of raw materials and fuels, prolonging the lifecycle of products, and limiting emissions that cause climate change and ocean acidification. I think that the new regulations of the Law on Environmental Protection related to recycling, reuse, and waste calculation by volume, as well as efforts in implementing sustainable production and consumption will be the driving force to changing consumer behaviour.
How do you evaluate the efforts of businesses in Vietnam to reduce plastic waste today?
Many multinational corporations, when entering Vietnam, have adopted policies being implemented in other developed countries, including regulations on reducing plastic waste. Such acts of corporate social responsibility should be encouraged. In the process of developing the law, we also consider introducing regulations to ensure fairness in competition, helping businesses that switch to using environmentally friendly products without losing their competitiveness in the market.
Since 2012, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment and related agencies are also encouraging businesses to practice sustainable production and consumption. The world is moving towards net-zero emissions by 2050. I believe that in the future, businesses will accompany the state and the community to effectively reduce plastic emissions into the environment and ocean.
What policies are state management agencies currently applying to support businesses to gradually move to green production and consumption?
In the current context, in order to adapt as well as enforce the state’s regulations, businesses need to be aware of and apply models of sustainable production, plastic waste reduction, and a circular economy. It not only helps businesses improve socioeconomic and environmental efficiency by reducing resource consumption and waste treatment costs, but also shapes the position and image of enterprises in green production, sustainable production, reduction of plastic waste, and environmental protection for the public.
Regarding policies to support enterprises with green and sustainable production, the Law on Environmental Protection 2022 stipulates preferential policies and supports in terms of land and capital; exemption and reduction of taxes and fees for environmental protection activities; price and freight subsidies for environmentally friendly products for certain enterprises that manufacture and supply technology, equipment, products and services serving the requirements of environmental protection; and much more.
In 2022, the prime minister approved the implementation of a number of articles of the Law on Environmental Protection, providing detailed regulations on investment measures, preferential policies, and other incentives to implement the circular economy. These are built in an open direction, encouraging all economic sectors and organisations to participate in the implementation of the circular economy, creating opportunities for everyone to innovate and apply it to harmonise the relationship between the economy, profit, and environmental protection.
What actions and recommendations has ISPONRE taken to build a circular economy for plastics in the period to 2030?
Currently, we are developing a national action plan in which plastics are identified as one of the priority areas for application.
ISPONRE has collaborated with organisations such as NPAP to conduct in-depth research on the circular economy for the packaging and plastic industries. Moreover, in collaboration with Hanoi Department of Industry and Trade, we have called on businesses to sign a commitment to join an alliance of retailers to reduce plastic bags.
The institute is also collaborating with organisations and scientists to research and evaluate typical models in the field of plastics such as the reuse-refill model, completion of the criteria for the circular economy, criteria for waste-to-energy incineration plants, and more.
We hope that with the issued policies, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment and related ministries will propose more policies on land, capital incentives, green bonds, green credits, and others so that businesses can have a basis to implement the contents of the circular economy, and so collection and classification of plastic waste becomes a daily habit.