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Vietnam Has Returned Over 500 Containers of Scrap Waste so Far This Year

After China announced its ban on plastic waste imports, Southeast Asian shores have received countless containers of scrap from the developed world.

In 2019, more than 500 cargo containers filled with trash failed to meet Vietnam's stricter scrap import laws and were sent back to their countries of origin as of this June, according to the Vietnam Maritime Authority. The move is an attempt to deal with the overload of scrap shipments accumulating in Vietnam's ports.

Currently, 12,300 scrap containers, of which 7,450 have sat for over 90 days, are waiting in limbo nationwide. As of last December, only 350 of over 3,000 containers at Saigon's Cat Lai Port had been opened and handled. 

Stricter new regulations enacted for scrap shipments have led to the buildup. In August 2018, the government declared the country would only offer licenses to importers that could prove their shipments met environmental standards and that their materials were needed in Vietnam and have the potential to be easily processed. The new restrictions require importers to provide certificates that attest to their meeting all of the above, in addition to filling approved quotas. 

"The handling has been slow because assessing the scrap takes time and needs to be conducted carefully. The customs agency does not allow imports if the scrap is trash,” explained Nguyen Huu Nghiep, the deputy head of Saigon's Custom's Agency.

To enforce the new measures, the Ministry of Natural Resource and Environment (MoNRE) established an inspection department. The Ministry of Finance, meanwhile, has instructed local authorities to more closely watch material movements in response to instances of Vietnamese companies counterfeiting documents and attempting to illegally bring in goods under the guise of production.

The stricter import rules and subsequent garbage glut followed China's outright ban of certain waste at the beginning of 2018. Vietnam brought in 9.2 million tons of scrap last year, an increase of 1.3 million tons compared to 2017. The figures dropped, however, once Vietnam enacted more stringent standards. Authorities have pledged to outlaw all scrap imports by 2025 for the sake of the environment and people's living conditions.

[Photo: Containers waiting for inspection at a port in Kuala Lumpur/Dhaka Tribune]

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