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Responsible Sourcing Initiative reaches first milestone in Viet Nam to understand key challenges and solutions to support informal waste workers

HO CHI MINH CITY, 2 July 2024The Circulate Initiative, a non-profit organization dedicated to solving the ocean plastic pollution challenge in emerging markets, has identified better income and access to health insurance as amongst the key opportunities to improve the working conditions and livelihoods of Viet Nam’s informal waste workers. The insights were shared at a recent event to discuss early assessment results of the Responsible Sourcing Initiative, a multi-year program that brings together brands, investors, recyclers and waste worker organizations to address the most pressing labor rights issues in plastic recycling supply chains.


Around 3.7 million tons of plastic waste is generated each year in Viet Nam, with 10 to 15% currently collected for recycling. Informal waste workers, the majority of whom are women concentrated in urban centers, are effectively responsible for 60% of this collection globally. Despite the contributions they make to tackling plastic pollution, they face several challenges which include social stigma, extended working hours, inadequate pay, and health and safety risks.


With funding from HP Inc., the Viet Nam project was the first to be launched as part of the global Responsible Sourcing Initiative. In Viet Nam, The Circulate Initiative will work with the implementing partner, the United Nations Development Programme in Viet Nam (UNDP Viet Nam), local recycler Duy Tan Recycling, and its suppliers to identify opportunities to improve the lives and livelihoods of 10,000  informal waste workers.


Annerieke Douma, Director of Programs at The Circulate Initiative, said: “We are thrilled to reach this important milestone for the Responsible Sourcing Initiative in Viet Nam.  Alongside our recently launched Harmonized Framework for Responsible Sourcing, these local insights enable us to identify the best solutions to implement which will address the most pressing needs for informal waste workers.” 


The recent workshop was held with the participation of members and partners from Viet Nam National Plastic Action Partnership (NPAP) and the Viet Nam Circular Economy Hub, both hosted by UNDP  network to identify key opportunities to improve the working conditions and labor rights of informal waste workers. It was attended by representatives from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, National EPR office, brands, informal waste workers, aggregators, junk shop owners, and civil society organizations. Access to better income, and health insurance were recognized as key areas for support for informal waste workers whereas suppliers highlighted the importance of access to financial resources and support to improve business compliance. Their inputs will contribute towards the solutions that will be chosen for investment and implementation later this year. 


Patrick Haverman Deputy Resident Representative, UNDP Viet Nam said: “Standing on the frontlines of waste collection and recycling, informal waste workers play a critical role. Through this initiative, we will work with all value chain actors to adopt and implement standards that enhance their working conditions and their livelihoods, and ensure their contribution is recognized by all stakeholders at all levels.”


Le Anh, Sustainability Director at Duy Tan Recycling said: “This event marked the first opportunity for waste workers, recycling companies and brands to collectively discuss how we can support the rights of informal waste pickers, who are essential to the supply of plastics for recycling. We are proud to be part of this initiative which will be beneficial not only for waste sector workers but also the recycling industry in Viet Nam.”  


The recently released Harmonized Framework for Responsible Sourcing of Recycled Plastics is the first global effort to create a harmonized and actionable framework to implement responsible sourcing practices for all actors in the recycled plastics value chain. The framework will be used in Viet Nam to measure progress of solutions, with the results used to inform approaches in other markets. 


Following Viet Nam, the Responsible Sourcing Initiative will roll out similar projects in Indonesia, India and Kenya, with all markets using the Framework to set up multiple projects that improve the livelihoods of the informal waste workers and increase the supply of responsibly sourced recycled plastics.

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