By Le Thi Trang, GreenViet Biodiversity Conservation Centre (GreenViet)

Hoi An City and Cu Lao Cham Island have  been well known for starting the first plastic-free movement in VietNam in 2009. Its slogans such as “Cu Lao Cham Says No to Plastic Bags” and Carrying Basket to Market is in Style” have inspired neighboring provinces, which have adopted similar slogans as part of their own plastic reduction campaigns.

Photo by GAIA/Miko Alino.

Provincial authorities, however, have also been receiving offers to consider building incinerators as a quick fix to the growing amount of waste in urban areas. Such expensive distractions are likely to undermine decade-long efforts to raise awareness and introduce behavior change interventions, aimed at reducing household and plastic waste. For supporters of incinerators, they believe that these machines provide an all-in-one solution to waste problems, without worrying about risks and responsibilities tied to waste sorting and air pollution.

Photo by GAIA/Miko Alino.

In 2019, GreenViet, Cu Lao Cham MPA Management Board, and GAIA Asia Pacific have launched the project “Building and Sharing Zero Waste Models in Selected Asian Communities” to develop Zero Waste models in Hoi An City. Supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), through the Municipal Waste Recycling Program (MWRP), the project presents an opportunity for Hoi An City to re-ignite its plastic-free movement and become the first Zero Waste City in VietNam.

The project started with conducting baseline research activities in the Hoi An communes of Cam Thanh and Tan Hiep. Findings from the waste perception survey showed that households were aware of the importance of segregation at source. However, it seems to be a different story when a lot of household waste collected from the waste audit was mixed together. Nonetheless, these initial observations have served as a challenging motivation for the multi-sector team. Joining GreenViet in this project are the Cu Lao Cham MPA Management Board, the People’s Committee of 2 communes, the Environment Office of Hoi An City, the Hoi An Public Construction Company, Vietnam Zero Waste Alliance, and Pacific Environment.

Photo courtesy of GreenViet.

COVID-19 has again disrupted project activities in Hoi An, with the virus spreading again in Central Vietnam, particularly in Da Nang. Despite the new COVID-19 wave, the project team has mobilized the IEC (Information and Education Campaign) and Monitoring units to work with the communities in the next six months. These units will be in charge of teaching residents about the ways of Zero Waste, including waste sorting and community composting. 

Photo courtesy of GreenViet.

Together with project partners, GreenViet and the Cu Lao Cham MPA Management Board will help develop a 5-year strategic Solid Waste Management (SWM) Plan next year, to institutionalize lessons and strategies for waste management. 

Photo courtesy of GreenViet.

With all efforts and willingness, local communities and partners will be proud of Hoi An as the first Zero Waste model in VietNam.

Photo by GAIA/Miko Alino.

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GAIA is grateful for the contributions from GreenViet and Hoi An City. This feature is made possible through the Zero Waste Cities project — an initiative coordinated by GAIA Asia Pacific and funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The views expressed in this feature do not necessarily reflect that of its funders.