Rethinking Plastics kick-off workshop of pilot activities

April 21, 2021 | 12:54
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The kick-off workshop for the Rethinking Plastics – Circular Economy Solutions to Marine Litter Project took place on April 9 in Hanoi, highlighting important policy developments and four pilot projects currently underway, to jointly address the concerning plastic pollution issue in Vietnam.    
rethinking plastics kick off workshop of pilot activities
Rethinking Plastics kick-off workshop of pilot activities

The workshop for the Rethinking Plastics Project held in Hanoi was co-organised by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MoNRE), the Delegation of the European Union (EU) to Vietnam, and Expertise France. Key local and international stakeholders participating in the event to discussed initial results and the implementation of four pilot projects that are being rolled out in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, and Phu Yen province.

The four pilot projects aim to test policy approaches and practical initiatives to reduce plastic waste and marine litter in Vietnam. They will focus on policies such as the promotion of circular economy principles and responsible practices in waste management, including extended producer responsibility (EPR) schemes, reduction of single-use plastic bags in supermarkets; “fishing-for-litter” schemes and ship waste management procedures at commercial ports.

In his opening speech, Pham Phu Binh, director general of the International Cooperation Department of the MoNRE said that plastic pollution has been a rising issue since the 1970s, with now plastics floating in the ocean covering nearly five times the area of Vietnam.

rethinking plastics kick off workshop of pilot activities
Pham Phu Binh, director deneral of the International Cooperation Department of the MoNRE

“The Vietnamese government and the MoNRE have been rolling out both short- and long-term solutions to reduce plastic pollution and promote development through circular economy approaches,” he said, noting that the government has issued Resolution No.26/NQ-CP in March 2020 to implement its 2018 Resolution No.36-NQ/TW on sustainable marine economy, and then in December issued a National Action Plan on marine plastic debris management.

Binh said that the circular economy model plays an important role in these government initiatives and that the Rethinking Plastics Project, as well as the experiences and lessons from the implementation of the pilot projects, could inform policy development in Vietnam. He added that the success of the four pilot activities could help in replicating them on a larger scale across the country.

In his remarks, Rui Ludovino, first counsellor, Climate Action, Environment, Employment, and Social Policies at the Delegation of the EU to Vietnam, warned that if marine litter is not reined in, there would be more plastics than fish in the sea by 2050. He highlighted that Southeast Asia is a hotspot for marine litter due to inefficient economic arrangements, lack of initiatives to reintroduce plastics into the economy, and poor waste management practices by all stakeholders.

rethinking plastics kick off workshop of pilot activities

Rui Ludovino, first counsellor, Climate Action, Environment, Employment, and Social Policies at the Delegation of the EU to Vietnam

Much like the problem of plastic pollution, Rethinking Plastics is a project of regional focus: if you throw plastics into the ocean in Vietnam, it will reach Thailand, Malaysia, and different parts of the world. Working with partners all over the world is extremely important for the EU, and that is why we have put in place the project in Southeast Asia.

Rethinking Plastics aims to promote change in legislation along with technical cooperation. It shares the experiences of what proved effective in Europe. This work will reach out to all stakeholders because we have to work with the administrators, consumers, the supermarkets, and the industries to bring about real change.

He highlighted the advances the EU had made in the implementation of its circular and low-carbon future. He cited the 54 actions of the 2015 Circular Economy Action Plan, now all fully implemented or under way, and the 2018 European Strategy for Plastics in a Circular Economy, which sets as a target that by 2030 all plastic packaging placed on the EU market will either be reusable and recyclable. Additionally, a new Circular Economy Action Plan had been introduced in March 2020, outlining new mandatory requirements for recycled content, with special attention on microplastics, as well as biobased and biodegradable plastics.

While making strong headways at home, he added, a key priority for the EU was to spur change across the world. As no single actor can solve a global issue of a magnitude like plastic pollution, taking international cooperation was essential.

“The four new pilot activities complement these joint efforts towards a circular economy with concrete actions and experiences from the local level, involving the communities and households, local businesses, and administrations,” Rui Ludovino added. “We hope that they can serve as best practices and inspire future initiatives and policy development.”

“Just the fact that we have managed to gather all of you here – policy-makers, corporations, the scientific community, and the media – is already a success,” Rui Ludovino added, expressing high hopes for strong stakeholder participation and tangible results at the end of the Rethinking Plastics Project in 2022.

rethinking plastics kick off workshop of pilot activities

Rethinking Plastics

The Rethinking Plastics Project aims to contribute to efforts on reducing marine litter and the proliferation of plastics through cooperation with key stakeholders in enhancing policy dialogues, managing plastic waste, and promoting sustainable and responsible consumption and production practices. It is implemented across seven countries including China, Indonesia, Japan, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam with a total budget of €10 million ($11.9 million).

It is co-founded by the European Union and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and implemented by the Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) and Expertise France.

The initiative has been running since May 2019 and will end in April 2022 with the aim of supporting the transition towards sustainable consumption and production of plastic in East and Southeast Asia and contribute to a significant reduction of marine litter.

So far, in addition to the recently-launched four pilot projects in Vietnam, 16 others in four other countries (China, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Thailand) have been approved to be implemented within the Rethinking Plastics Project.

Pilot projects in Vietnam

In Vietnam, the implementing bodies of the Rethinking Plastics Project are cooperating with the MoNRE, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD), and the Ministry of Industry and Trade (MoIT), the Ministry of Transport (MoT), as well as local authorities. The ultimate aim of the pilot projects is to effectively reduce plastics pollution and marine litter by promoting circular economy approaches and sustainable use and production while identifying successful practices for replication on a larger scale.

Following initial assessment phases, each pilot project will work closely with local partners in crafting new, practical solutions, guidelines and concrete recommendations to support them in the development of tailored sectoral public policies.

Plastic Alliance Project

Location: Hanoi, Vietnam

Implementing organisation: Institute of Strategy and Policy on Natural Resources and Environment (ISPONRE) in partnership with Department of Industry and Trade (DoIT) in Hanoi, under the supervision of the MoIT – the main beneficiary of the pilot project.

Project start and duration: October 2020 – 17 months

Budget: €176,000 ($209,450)

Introduction: The Plastic Alliance will work to bring together supermarkets, policy-makers, and consumers to test new approaches to promote sustainable consumption and production by reducing single-use plastic bags and encouraging eco-friendly alternatives.

The objectives of the project are to establish an alliance of retailers to monitor and control the consumption of plastic bags, while encouraging wider participation and deploying a communication programme to promote participation and behaviour change of consumers.

The pilot project will support the implementation of Vietnam’s National Strategy on Integrated Management of Solid Waste (which sets the target that only environmentally-friendly plastic bags will be used in retail stores across the country by 2025), and will help authorities in identifying successful and feasible strategies to phase out single-use plastics.

Enhancing plastic packaging, collection, sorting, and recycling

Location: Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Implementing organisation: Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (IRD) and Hanoi Architectural University (HAU)

Project start and duration: September, 2020 – 18 months

Budget: €165,000 ($195,360)

Introduction: The pilot project aims to increase the collection, sorting, and recycling of plastic packaging in Ho Chi Minh City by understanding the complex dynamics of a metropolis of diverse stakeholders and fragmented waste management system.

The IRD favours a territorial approach, to identify key stakeholders – consumers, collectors, aggregators, transporters, and recyclers – in each microcosmos, to draw up a larger plastic disposal chain and determine appropriate action (both local and city-wide). Strong emphasis is given to evidence-based actions and to the broad engagement of all stakeholders to ensure participation and effectiveness.

Through this approach, the pilot project will create guidelines on classifying and measuring plastic packaging collection and recycling, improve waste sorting at source by consumers, and define best practices for plastic packaging.

Fishing for Litter: promote a scheme for the voluntary collection of marine litter by fishermen community in Dan Phuoc fishing port

Location: Phu Yen province, Vietnam

Implementing organisation: Vietnam Association of Fisheries (VINAFIS) and Expertise France, on behalf of and for the benefit of the Directorate of Fisheries (DFISH), Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development

Project start and duration: March 2021 – 11 months

Budget: €65,000 ($77,350)

Introduction: Following Fishing for Litter schemes deployed in several places in Southeast Asia, the project will be tested in Vietnam by the VINAFIS in collaboration with the Department of Science, Technology and International Cooperation of DFISH (MARD) to collect litter from the sea by the fishing community when emptying their nets.

Crafted by VINAFIS, the programme will encourage fishing vessels to collect plastic waste from the sea and return it to the mainland for recycling. It will do this through an extensive communication campaign on the harmful impacts of plastics waste to fishers and the creation of a volunteer movement in the fishing community.

The Fishing for Litter project is expected to help identify successful practices that can be replicated in other areas and contribute to the implementation of the National Action Plan for Management of Ocean Plastic Waste in the Fishery sector in 2020-2030.

Ship Waste Management in Vietnamese ports – Cat Lai port

Location: Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Implementing organisation: Expertise France on behalf of and for the benefit of Vietnam Maritime Administration (Vinamarine)

Project start and duration: April 2020 – 18 months

Budget: €115,000 ($136,860)

Introduction: The project aims to reduce the illegal dumping of ship waste into the sea by enhancing management practices in Vietnamese ports.

In its first phase, the project successfully conducted a technical assessment of the existing management system in Cat Lai Port, along with a legal review of Vietnamese regulations in the field, to identify best practices that have proven effective in EU ports and would fit the Vietnamese context.

Since its beginning in April 2020, the project has recommended port policy-makers to improve the waste notification system through which vessels can report in advance on the type and volume of waste they would deliver to the port reception facility. Additionally, the project has also proposed to design an incentivising cost recovery system (waste fee) and preparing a Ship Waste Management Manual to offer guidance for vessel operators and other stakeholders.

By Tom Nguyen

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