Although several cities across the Asia-Pacific region have joined the ESCAP Pro-Poor and Sustainable Solid Waste Management in Secondary Cities and Small Towns project, only Quy Nhon in Viet Nam is exploring the possibility of using new finance mechanisms for waste management through a Clean Development Mechanism project. If successful, other cities likely will join the ESCAP project’s next phase and scale up the approach using carbon financing.
A port city in south-central Viet Nam, Quy Nhon is the economic, political and scientific centre of Binh Dinh Province. The city’s main industries historically have been fishing and agriculture, but there has been a shift towards the service and tourism industries recently. But the tourism sector is experiencing difficulties because of heavy pollution of the sea, which results from the discharge of untreated wastewater and other waste products directly into the seawater.
In Binh Dinh Province, most farmers recognize the damage that a lack of organic ingredients in the soil causes, and they also understand the benefits of using compost in farming. Yet, most farmers do not compost and instead use cow manure or organic waste.
Since 2008, Quy Nhon has had a large-scale composting plant in the city’s Long My landfill complex that was built with Belgian technology and financed through a loan from the Belgium Government. The planned capacity for composting is 250 tons of waste per day. The plant, however, has never operated at full capacity. It began treating about 80 tons of waste per day, but due to the absence of source separation, the plant was ineffective (the waste was contaminated). To mitigate those problems, the plant began treating only waste from markets and now operates at 17 per cent of its planned capacity. The compost is sold to local farmers, but the quality of the compost is rarely tested.
ESCAP, Waste Concern and the Quy Nhon People’s Committee initiated the process for a climate finance project at the Long My composting plant. The Long My project will treat biodegradable waste from vegetable markets and restaurants of Quy Nhon city as well as segregated household waste. On average, it will divert approximately 40 tons per day away from the landfill. By changing the technology used, from open window process to static pile, with forced aeration under cover, and insisting on source separation in the process, the composting plant can treat more organic waste. With the additional revenue from the CDM process, the compost plant’s processing capacity will be expanded to 40 tons per day.
Additionally, an IRRC was piloted in the city’s Nhon Phu ward in 2007, under the management of an agricultural cooperative. The plant experienced severe damage from several typhoons in 2009 but is now operating at full capacity and making a small profit. The IRRC employs six workers who daily collect waste from 699 households and two small markets.
The plant also encountered other challenges when it first set up and has since tried to overcome them and improve operations. Initially, for instance, it was difficult to mobilize the community. Many households were not willing to pay for the collection service or to separate their waste. Due to the lack of that initial participation from the community, the IRRC experienced financial problems. It was also difficult to sell the compost that had been produced because of a lack of promotional activities and marketing. Over time as word spread of the available compost, farmers came to rely on its quality and now the demand is always greater than the supply.
With financial assistance from ESCAP through its more recent regional project, the plant is now being upgraded to better cope with typhoon storms and to provide better facilities for sorting and storing recyclable material. The adjustments will contribute towards increasing the workers’ income. Through the project, the management has improved, which is expected to increase the efficiency of the centre.
The Nhon Phu plant has been a useful case study. When Nhon Phu was selected as the pilot area for the project, community discussions centred on how to operate the plant and how it could contribute to creating employment opportunities for the poor in the area. The various involved parties, including the People’s Committee at city and ward levels, decided that the management of the plant would be given to the local farmer’s cooperative. This meant that the IRRC workers would not be former waste pickers but farmers. When they began working at the IRRC, they expressed dissatisfaction because they thought that the work was low paid, dirty and of low social standing. To mitigate those issues, the IRRC managers introduced motorized collection carts and more vigorous initiatives to ensure sorting at source.
Even though the same farmers still work at the centre five years later and express pride in their jobs, the experience from Nhon Phu has underscored how crucial it is that workers have previous experience in waste management and that waste-separating programmes cannot be a “one time only” event but should be a continuous effort that includes a variety of parties (government and community leaders) promoting the practice.