Obsolete waste treatment technology in Vietnam | National

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Mr. NGUYEN QUANG HUAN, Member of the Science, Technology and Environment Committee of the National Assembly, spoke with Saigon Investment on issues surrounding the use of appropriate technology.

JOURNALIST: – Sir, how do you assess the current situation of waste treatment in our country?

Mr. NGUYEN QUANG HUAN: – Domestic waste is a big problem in Vietnam, especially in all major cities. In Hanoi there is the Nam Son landfill, in Ho Chi Minh City there is the Da Phuoc landfill, in Da Nang there is the Khanh Son landfill, and in Hai Phong there is the Trang Cat landfill.

According to statistics, in Da Nang, a daily household waste is about 1,100 tons, more than 400,000 tons per year. As a result, the Khanh Son landfill currently contains more than 3 million tons of waste, which stinks and pollutes the surrounding environment. It is estimated that by 2030, household waste in Da Nang will double to about 2,200 tons per day. In Ho Chi Minh City, about 8,000 to 9,000 tons of household waste is generated every day, which is nearly 4 million tons of waste per year.

– Sir, there is an opinion that technology creates a bottleneck for waste treatment in Vietnam today. So, which waste treatment technology do you consider to be the most appropriate?

– In my opinion, there is no complete waste treatment technology yet. As data from the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment shows, 70% of our country’s waste is treated by landfill. Only around 20% of this waste is properly buried, ie in compliance with 261-2001/BXD standards. These are sanitary landfills capable of treating leachate waste. However, the Environmental Protection Act 2020 does not encourage any type of landfill as the nature of waste landfill technology is currently very outdated.

At present, a number of factories use waste treatment technology to produce biogas for power generation, such as Quang Binh province waste treatment plant. However, the limit of this plant is that the waste is sorted by hand which is quite toxic for the workers, and the amount of electricity produced is not up to expectations. The price of electricity from biogas of 8.5 cents per kWh is lower than that of burning waste to generate electricity, which is 10.35 cents per kWh, which is why investors are not not interested.

There is also a waste processing plant with a more common technology, which involves composting and creating microbial fertilizers. However, this technology is not complete in waste classification because it is easy to mix heavy metals into microbial fertilizer and it is only suitable for industrial crops. If applied to agricultural crops, it can kill plants and pollute the soil.

The technology most used today is the manual combustion of waste which does not generate electricity and causes high levels of air pollution. The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment has issued national technical regulation QCVN 61-MT:2016/BTNMT on domestic solid waste incinerators, requiring incinerators to guarantee two chambers and reach 950 degrees Celsius with minimum storage time two seconds. However, it is not suitable for advanced waste incineration.

Another technology that can help recover energy is to combine biogas with RDF pellets, which is a solid fuel used for boilers and furnaces in several industries. Biogas can generate electricity that will be used for dry waste, part of which is sent to the grid. The main product of this technological process is RDF pellets, which are supplied as raw materials, replacing coal materials in industrial plants using incinerators, such as cement factories and metallurgical plants.

Also, there are other technologies mentioned but not yet widely applied in Vietnam, such as plasma and waste gasification. These technologies produce syngas and generate electricity using internal combustion engines. These are technologies with the outstanding characteristic that the remaining amount of ash and slag is very small, generating a lot of electricity but at high investment costs, which should be further considered and applied for testing.

In September, the National Assembly’s Committee on Science, Technology and the Environment will chair a national explanatory session on solid waste according to the tasks assigned by the Standing Committee of the National Assembly. Currently, the Commission has conducted a survey in the localities and in the near future will work with ministries, departments and sectors to create reports, find out why we have not treated the waste thoroughly and choose the technology most appropriate for the country.

– Sir, is the fear of monetary losses one of the main reasons why companies do not take the risk of investing in advanced technology for waste treatment?

– In my opinion, the ability of domestic investors to access information and research technologies is still limited, even though there are many advanced technologies in the world. Because advanced technology is expensive, this technology can be suitable for waste with dry and sorted characteristics like in Europe, but when applied in Vietnam, it causes pollution and produces little product, so the revenue will be very weak.

Therefore, companies that want to invest in waste treatment must guarantee two fundamental factors. First, the technology used must be sustainable and advanced for non-polluting waste treatment. Second, to be financially viable, the technology must create many good products that can be sold in the marketplace to generate enough revenue to cover the cost of lending, operation, and maintenance.

The income of a waste treatment plant also has two sources which must be ensured. First, the waste treatment fee income is currently $20 per ton to $21 per ton of incoming waste. Second, revenues from waste treatment products can be electricity, gas, RDF pellets, microbial fertilizers or other recyclable materials such as iron, steel and glass. Therefore, it is difficult to choose the right waste treatment technology for Vietnam.

– Thanks a lot.

Luu Thuy (interviewer)

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