Language: (English)

A green star for better recycling

RLG launches the first take-back system for Apple and HP in Vietnam.

iPhones and iPods in the left corner. Stacked by the hundreds. Next to them, HP printers and notebooks. Neatly piled and sorted. However, the devices are not the latest products, and they are not on display at a major electronics store. Instead, they are at a waste treatment facility in Ho Chi Minh City, deep in the south of Vietnam. The appliances are electronic waste, or e-waste, that is waiting for professional and environmentally friendly dismantling and recycling.
Xuân Phong is the manager of one of several facilities in Vietnam that process e-waste. He shows us around the site with pride, pointing out the security equipment, the cameras, the high walls and fences, and the strict controls at the entrance. RLG has high standards for its service providers, Phong says. That is because untrustworthy recycling companies are also looking to get their hands on e-waste to salvage valuable commodities. The secure recycling chain starts well before the devices even reach the facility. It all begins at the many collection points in Vietnam where every citizen can return used Apple and HP appliances free of charge. Several collection points are located in Ho Chi Minh City alone. Additional points are being planned and will be set up gradually in prime locations close to schools, government offices and shopping centres.
Free recycling of consumer electronics? What sounds normal to us is a real paradigm shift in Vietnam. As Phong explains, a group of Vietnamese people known as dong nat illegally disassemble e-waste to sell the commodities to traders. Many people in Vietnam try to earn a living this way. But instead of going through the time-consuming process of proper recycling, dong nat burn plastic parts and cords to get to materials that they can turn into money, such as aluminium, copper and iron. All of this has nothing to do with professional, environmentally friendly recycling.

Professional, environmentally friendly and health-conscious recycling in Vietnam. Audited, monitored and organised by RLG.

The new collection system is motivating the citizens of Vietnam to change the way they think. Should I sell my old devices to dubious recyclers for a little money and damage the country’s public health and the environment in the process? Or should I simply return it free of charge, in the knowledge that the valuable commodities are returned to the value chain safely, carefully and in an environmentally friendly manner?
Awareness of eco-conscious recycling is still low in Vietnam. Yet the leading manufacturers Apple and HP have seized the initiative by teaming up with RLG to launch the Vietnam Recycles programme, a free system for taking back used or defective electronic devices in Vietnam. The system’s approach begins with the best method of combatting the destruction of the environment and public health: with education. All service providers involved in the Vietnam Recycling Platform (VRP) receive intensive, in-depth training from RLG and are audited by the company. Xuân Phong has also completed several weeks of training and is now a licensed RLG recycling partner in accordance with the strict ISO 14002 standard. He knows every device, every material and every toxic element. He knows how to professionally dismantle and process devices, and how to recycle the commodities they contain in an environmentally friendly manner. The growing number of old devices being returned is reason to hope that Vietnam is on the road to a greener future – and that consumers are joining manufacturers such as Apple and HP in living up to their responsibility.
We follow a Vietnam Recycles truck from the collection point to Xuân Phong’s waste treatment facility and are impressed by the exemplary level of thoroughness and care. The quantity of devices returned for recycling is measured electronically at every collection point in the country. Weight and quantity are documented, and the trucks are monitored constantly by GPS, as any deviation from the route could mean that a driver is misappropriating material. What is more, the e-waste is weighed, counted and inspected at every collection point. Once enough devices have been collected, collection points send a pick-up request online through the app or the website. Speed is another factor that helps ensure security. The recycling facilities get to work carefully dismantling and recycling notebooks, printers, monitors, tablets and mobile phones within one day of their arrival.
We say goodbye to Xuân Phong and get into our car, which has been heated up by the blazing sun. Our windows rolled down, we drive through Ho Chi Minh City. We see people transporting refrigerators on bicycles and countless televisions on wooden carts. Are the recycling efforts just a drop in the proverbial bucket on this hot Vietnamese day? Minutes later, we pass by a school and catch a glimmer of hope for the future. In front of the entrance stands a Vietnam Recycles collection container for used and defective electronic products. A bright-green star smiles back, telling us in Vietnamese: “Cùng chung tay bẳo vệ Trái đất & sức khỏe chúng ta” – Lend a hand, and let us protect the earth and our health.

RLG Vietnam
8th Floor, 54-59 Ho Tung Mau Street
Ben Nghe Ward, District 1
Ho Chi Minh City
Telefon: +84 933882205