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Thousands of imported scrap containers stuck at major ports: environment ministry

Update: July, 19/2018 - 09:00
Plastic waste washed up on the shore of Phan Thiết City, Bình Thuận Province. — VNA/VNS Photo Nguyễn Thanh
Viet Nam News

HÀ NỘI — The Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (MoNRE) is struggling to handle nearly 6,000 of scrap containers held up at major sea ports around the country, which not only pose environmental concerns but also hinder the port’s activities.

The influx of waste took place as China, the world’s largest importer of recyclable waste, stopped accepting imports of 24 types of foreign waste starting in 2018, forcing many countries – including major economies such as the US, EU, Japan and Canada – to switch to new destinations such as Thailand and Việt Nam, Hoàng Văn Thức, deputy head of the Việt Nam Environment Administration, said at a press conference by MoNRE on Tuesday.

According to Thức, a working group from the ministry inspected two key ports in HCM City and Hải Phòng from June 25 to 29.

The Tân Cảng Sài Gòn port, at the moment of inspection, was holding 4,480 containers of scrap – the highest amount of waste held among all southern ports, with nearly half (2,100 containers) present for over 90 days. Twenty per cent of the containers held waste paper, while the remaining 80 per cent were full of plastic waste and other scrap material.

Ports in the north-eastern city of Hải Phòng are holding some 1,200 containers, with the majority being overdue for more than 90 days.

The environment administration said that within the month, the ports will need to take stock and see how many of these stagnant containers are ‘abandoned’ (or unclaimed for more than 90 days). The abandoned containers will then be auctioned among waste treatment companies, if the waste is on the list of legal imports. Otherwise, the waste will have to be re-exported or disposed of – a costly task.  

According to Thức, the amount of waste arriving in Việt Nam increased two-fold compared to 2016, with most of the waste being plastic, paper and granulated slag.

In the first five months of 2018, imports of plastic waste were double that of 2017, coinciding with intensified global campaigns against plastic pollution, while according to reports, Việt Nam ranks fourth in the list of countries discharging the most plastic debris into the ocean.

The environment authorities also discovered several cases where import companies were deliberately importing illegal waste under a false name, with fake licences and incorrect addresses, to earn quick profit while leaving their trash stuck at shipping terminals.

Environment authorities said Việt Nam currently does not have a mechanism to monitor and stop the waste from entering the country in the first place. Only when the containers of scrap have already arrived at the ports and declaration has started, are authorities able to inspect the actual contents of the containers.

The environment ministry and concerned agencies have started working to review existing regulations on scrap imports, including revisions to the list of allowed scrap materials which are now deemed an environmental risk or domestic output of that waste has met demands, as well as heavier penalties for illegal scrap importers.

“We must prioritise research and development of modern technologies that are environmentally-friendly, lessen the import of waste from abroad while increasing recycling and reuse of waste produced in the country,” Lê Công Thành, deputy environment minister said.

The issue of excessive sand mining along the rivers and administrative reforms within the ministry also received heavy attention at the press conference. — VNS

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