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Opportunities and Challenges for Establishing a Route for Recyclables that Targets Valuable Materials
-The case of a model source separation project and expansion to the entire city of Da Nang, Viet Nam-

1 July 2019

International Partnership Project in Da Nang, Viet Nam: Behind Its Rapid Growth as a Tourist Destination and Smart City

Since 2017, the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES), in collaboration with Yokohama City and in partnership with JICA, has been supporting Da Nang, the 3rd largest city in Viet Nam, in implementing model pilot projects to separate recyclable resources directly from their household source.

The JICA “Partnership Scheme(草の根協力)” is based on their approach to international cooperation that utilizes the knowledge and experience of NGOs, local governments, universities, and private companies in a collaborative manner with stakeholders in the target countries. In Da Nang project, IGES acts as a project leader by managing the overall project and providing advice to both Yokohama and Da Nang cities.

Da Nang, with a population of around 1.24 million, is located next to Viet Nam’s two world heritage sites and tourism centers, Hue and Hoi An. Since Da Nang attracts both the IT and service industries, it is expected to develop rapidly. Along with this rapid development, however, the generation of solid waste in the city increased from 197 thousand tonnes annually in 2007 to 278 tonnes in 2014.

Since many cities in developing countries lack waste to energy facilities, waste generally tends to be dumped in landfill sites. Therefore, this leads to rising concerns about shortages in final landfill sites or environmental pollution due to environmentally unsound waste management practices. In addition, among the 3Rs (REDUCE: reduction in the consumption of materials and goods that potentially contributes to waste, REUSE: using items repeatedly, without throwing them away, and RECYCLING: recycling as a resource), “REUSE” is commonly practiced by those living in emerging economies. However, the rate of “REDUCE” is not catching up to the rapid pace of economic growth and material prosperity. Since RECYCLING in developing countries is mainly dependent on informal recycling routes (collection and recycling of materials depending on unofficial routes and market-based activities by small-scale businesses or individuals), public administration often does not correctly grasp the extent of collection or the amount of recyclables. Informal recycling is often one of the challenges for expansion of 3R activities.

Therefore, this project focuses on the flow of valuable recyclables and aims to increase the amount going from households to junkshops (which collect and further sort the valuable materials) and to reduce the amount going into the waste management route. In practice, the project supported model projects in source separation of recyclables with market-value from household waste in Hai Chau district, the administrative, financial, and commercial center of Da Nang, and in Thanh Keh district, a neighboring downtown location. In collaboration with the people’s committees and women’s unions in the two districts, the project developed guidelines for source separation of recyclables, including bottles, aluminum cans, paper, PET and plastics, prepared bags and containers for collection and storage of recyclables from households, and encouraged participation of citizens in the model districts. In addition, Yokohama City and IGES organized a series of training sessions based on Yokohama’s experience with citizens and the private sector in waste reduction campaigns, such as G30 and 3R Dream. Members of the people’s committee and women’s union for each district were invited to Yokohama for the trainings.

Expansion of 3R activities to the whole city, starting this year

As a result of these model projects, citizens’ participation rates in source separation now exceeds 80%. The model area in Hai Chau district conducted collection activities 199 times during 6 months, which resulted in 2 tonnes of waste paper, 1.3 tonnes of waste plastics, and 26,000 cans of aluminum cans. This success led Da Nang city to approve and implement the “Household Solid Waste Source Separation Plan in Da Nang by 2025”, and to expand source separation activities to the entire city. The plan increased the targets for recycling rates from the current 2% level to 12% in 2020 and 15% in 2025.

The uniqueness of this project is that it focuses on intentional separation of valuable recyclables from “household waste”, and aims to increase the amount going to collectors of valuable recyclables, such as junkshops, while reducing the amount going into waste management. Through this project, IGES identified the so-called informal recycling route in Da Nang. In developing countries, it is not realistic for local administrations to immediately establish and operate formal recycling pathways. Therefore, it is crucial to identify informal but locally-based recycling routes, since collaborating with them in an appropriate manner can improve the 3R activities. Earnings from selling recyclables in each community in the district are usually used as common fund for the community to support needs such as education and school supplies for children from poor households. The project is contributing not only to SDG 12 (Sustainable Consumption and Production) but also to SDG 1 (Ending Poverty) and 4 (Education). This approach can be useful for additional cities in Viet Nam as well as other South East Asian cities that rely on informal recycling.

Future needs to establish recycling routes beyond junkshops

By implementing source separation of valuable recyclables in the entire city, with an expectation of increasing the amount of recyclables collected, a future challenge for the project is how to establish and improve the environmentally-sound nature of the recycling route. Currently, recyclable resources in Da Nang mainly follow one of four routes: 1) mixed with other wastes at the source and collected through formal waste collection services by URENCO (the public waste management company in Da Nang), and then dumped at a final landfill site, 2) brought directly to junkshops by each household, 3) collected by the local community and brought to junkshops, or 4) collected by URENCO and brought to junkshops. While the role played by junkshops is significant, it is still unclear where these recyclables end up at the end of this junkshop route. Since the current system depends on junkshops, it is necessary to improve the safety and environmental conditions of these small-scale collection and sorting facilities. In addition, it is extremely important to identify and develop proper recycling facilities and industries that accept sorted recyclables from junkshops. Although there may be a concern about return on investment, an additional benefit of the recycling is that it reduces flows of waste into waterways, particularly as marine plastic waste is now receiving greater attention worldwide. Since Da Nang is becoming popular among tourists as a beach resort city, the next step for a successful Da Nang project, based on further improving waste management in the city, will be the establishment of recycling facilities and industries based on both environmental and economic considerations for the future benefit of the city and its residents.

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