During the COP26 meeting, Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh raised the issue of informal waste workers in Vietnam, particularly women, who receive low wages despite playing a crucial role in advancing the circular economy. Therefore, it is necessary to include these individuals in the group of those who need to be treated fairly, so they can receive appropriate recognition for their contributions to society in general and the global plastic pollution issue in particular.
Additionally, during the INC-1 negotiations in Uruguay in December 2022, conference members proposed an initiative for equitable transformation for individuals working in plastic waste collection and processing. This initiative was built on the definition of ending plastic pollution in the fairest and most comprehensive way, creating opportunities for sustainable employment without leaving anyone behind. It applies to all laborers working in both formal and informal environments, especially waste pickers. Therefore, the global plastic reduction effort must simultaneously minimize and closely manage challenges, including ensuring the fairness of labor groups and ensuring better employment for workers in all plastic production activities.
Hence, the Vietnam Zero Waste Alliance and the Women’s Union of Hoi An City hope to gain insights and aspirations from female waste collectors through a dialogue session titled “The Role of Women and Female Waste Collectors in Waste Collection, Sorting, and Plastic Pollution Reduction.” This will provide a basis for proposals at the upcoming INC-2 conference in France scheduled for May.
The program saw the participation of over 50 female waste collectors actively working in Hoi An, along with representatives from the People’s Committee of Hoi An City, the Women’s Union of Hoi An, and sponsoring organizations.
Speaking at the event, Ms. Ngo Thi Nhung – Chairwoman of the City’s Women’s Union – presented the achievements of members in 2022, both in terms of low-value and high-value waste. Additionally, the Union successfully transformed this waste into valuable support for members and disadvantaged children in the city. Furthermore, Ms. Quach Thi Xuan – Director representing the Pacific Environment in Vietnam – shared her concerns for the group of female waste pickers in Vietnam. Recognizing and appreciating the role of waste pickers is a crucial and top-priority issue for management agencies. These workers are responsible for collecting and recovering up to 60% of plastic for recycling. Hence, they are the key to addressing the pressing issue of plastic pollution. Unfortunately, their work is rarely valued, and they often struggle to make a living.
The forum gathered insights into the advantages and challenges faced by this vulnerable labor group in their work in Hoi An. The event even opened up opportunities to listen to the thoughts of these workers, who have seemingly simple yet pressing needs, such as health insurance or support in resolving the disposal of plastic waste they diligently sort and process from the city’s domestic waste.
In conclusion, the Pacific Environment Organization, along with member organizations of the global BFFP network, hope to realize the aspirations of waste collector groups as soon as possible. This will be achieved by bringing these opinions to larger forums like INC2 in France or state organizations, aiming for a future with reduced plastic waste that leaves no one behind.
Here are some images from the forum: