Current status of e-waste management in Vietnam
Electronic waste is an enormous, and growing, problem around the world, with unimaginable numbers of broken and obsolete devices and gadgets being fed into a waste stream that threatens to become a deluge. Not only is the problem one of waste and loss of rare and costly materials, but many of the materials, the metals in particular, represent an environmental threat if they enter ecosystems.
Regulations at the national and international level attempt to address the problem of electronic waste with different degrees of success. Research published in the International Journal of Environmental Technology and Management, has looked at the problem from the perspective of Vietnam where it is estimated that more than ten million units of electronic waste are generated each year.
The study looks at how Vietnam manages its electronic waste under regulations introduced in 2015 on the retrieval and treatment of discarded products and extended producer responsibility. Moreover, it considers how these policies fit into the 2020 law on environmental protection and how the pros and cons of these local regulations and laws might help guide policymakers in other developing nations that are also facing the growing problems of e-waste.
Nguyen Trung Thang and Duong Thi Phuong Anh of the Institute of Strategy and Policy on Natural Resources and Environment (ISPONRE) in Ha Noi, Vietnam, and Sunil Herat of Griffith University, Nathan Campus in Queensland, Australia, point out that poor handling of electronic waste is a serious concern in terms of environmental health and human health.
Many developing nations are yet to understand fully the implications and develop laws to allow them to cope. In Vietnam, e-waste has not yet been well defined and much of it still enters the general waste stream. Where it is more appropriately processed, recyclers often lack the understanding or the equipment to handle it properly and to safely extract and retrieve rare and toxic materials. Indeed, so-called craft villages set up to extract metals commonly burn old gadgets, generating huge amounts of toxic fumes and using the most rudimentary of methods to retrieve and recycle metals from those devices.
The approach must change, policymakers and regulators need to take control of the electronic waste stream, educate those involved in disposal and recycling and encourage them to recognize the benefits and perhaps offer incentives so that safe and appropriate e-waste processing is more widely adopted. The team adds that the developed world needs both technical and financial assistance in this regard from the developed world to ensure its local electronic waste streams don't simply add to a global problem.