The trading port city of Hoi An in Vietnam is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is a top tourist location and the count of tourists increases every year. Over 21 million tourists visited the city in 2016 alone and the native population is just 120,000.
Although the tourism constitutes a big chunk of the economy, it also brings with it a large amount of waste which the city of Hoi An is not very well equipped to deal with yet. Problems due to insufficient collection and improper disposal of this waste had been festering for years. These problems have resulted in an increased amount of plastic and litter in the land and streams threatening the environment and the health of communities. This waste eventually makes it way to the oceans.
Hoi An’s Women’s Union has come up with a long-term waste management plan that fosters the sustainable development of the city while preserving its cultural heritage. With the support of the GEF Small Grants Programme (SGP), the Women’s Union piloted a project called “Socialisation of solid waste management in Hoi An” in close coordination with the Viet Nam Office of Natural Resources and Environment and the Public Works Agency.
The project not only successfully established a scheme for collecting, sorting, and disposing of waste in Hoi An, but it gave work to a group of poor women, strengthening the social fabric of the community. ‘In addition to managing the waste, this group of women have become proud advocates for the environment’, said Ms. Le Phuong Duc, Chair of the Hoi An’s Women’s Union.
‘Their contribution to the city is widely recognised, they are very proud of their contribution to protecting the World Heritage site, their hometown. This has given them more confidence to become active in their community, forming environmental protection groups’.
Advocacy was another component of the project, and proved to be critical to achieving positive environmental impacts. A campaign on domestic waste management at local cultural events, on radio, and on television – along with a continuous dialogue between the Women’s Union and key stakeholders – has reduced the amount of waste that ends up in landfills by more than 70%.
Now, the waste is sorted into 3 categories- recyclable, biodegradable, and persistent, and disposed of properly.
Biodegradable waste is composted and then given to local farmers to be used as a manure. Recyclable waste like plastic, metal and other recyclable waste is sold to recycling facilities and persistent waste is disposed of by the local government.
With the support from the SGP, the commune of Cam Thanh in Hoi An has become an exemplar of strategy for addressing urban waste that is now being scaled up at a provincial level. Five years later, the project continues to deliver benefits to women, men, children, and visitors to the city, whilst protecting our global environment.