City converts junk plastic bags to synthetic diesel

While efforts in Ho Chi Minh City to reduce consumption of plastic bags have failed, recycling of junk plastic waste into diesel oil has opened new grounds for reuse of waste material.

Plastic bags are being collected for recycling in HCMC (Photo: SGGP)

According to data from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, HCMC at present collects 7,000 tons of garbage every day. Of these, 70-80 tons are plastic bags, which mean citizens are using 5-9 million plastic bags in a single day.

Only 40 percent of junked plastic bags are made into compost while the remaining volume is buried in landfills.

Ho Tuan Kiet, from Vafaco Packing Joint Stock Company, which specializes in bio-degradable bags, said that they have been producing the product for the last two years but found it hard for consumption purposes. The main markets remain supermarkets and trade centers.

The bio-degradable bag is rarely used in traditional markets, partly because its price is 15 percent higher than that of ordinary plastic bags which cost only VND16,000-25,000 a kilogram.

Ngo Nguyen Ngoc Thanh, deputy director of the HCMC Waste Recycle Fund, said that the City has launched several programs to encourage residents to reduce consumption of plastic bags for the last several years.

They have even gone to markets to mobilize traders to use bio-degradable bags instead of plastic bags. However, citizens still seem to prefer plastic bags.

Plastic bags processed into diesel

Huynh Minh Nhut, director of the HCMC Urban Environment Company, said that plastic bags remain intact for centuries after being buried. This has led to a high environment protection fee in garbage dumps.

Besides, the slow degradability requires more land to bury plastic bags and HCMC is short of vacant land for this purpose once the Da Phuoc and Phuoc Hiep garbage dumps are full.

Nhut said that his company has invested in two incinerators with total capacity to process 15 tons of plastic bags for converting into 6,000 liters of synthetic diesel oil a day, using a technique called Pyrolysis.

This process is quite simple. After being collected, plastic bags go straight into the incinerators and through a high tech process churned into diesel, he said.

The company plans to purchase another ten such incinerators to raise total processing capacity for 75 tons of plastic bags a day.

In the future, the company will not only process waste plastic bags but also propose to the City to take out plastic bags from the closed down garbage dumps like Go Cat and Dong Thanh for recycling.

By Ai Van – Translated by Hai Mien

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