Craft villages in Vietnam have a rich history that dates back several centuries. In recognition of their contribution to the socio-economic development of Vietnam’s rural areas, the Government Decree 2006 issued a number of policies on the development of craft villages with the aim of creating local employment opportunities.
Out of the 2800 types of craft villages, waste recycling craft villages are one of the prominent categories. They are newly established and mostly located in the North of Vietnam. They specialize in recycling various types of waste such as metal, paper, and plastic. The locals source raw materials such as plastics from junk buyers or waste pickers. The locals then transform them into plastic pellets that can be utilized to produce new materials. Besides plastics, these recycling craft villages also use metals obtained from out-of-date waste ships, boats, and motor cards as their main raw materials.
The self-regulatory nature of these villages is one of their notable aspects. Some operate on a self-employed basis while others are family-run or hire other workers. Each household focuses on a particular recycling type based on its specialization and capacity
Initially, the initiative was aimed to enhance employment opportunities through small-scale enterprises. The addition of craft villages exclusively for recycling has complemented the initial goal and also contributed towards waste management.
A national survey revealed that such craft villages helped recycle about one million tons of metals per annum. In one of the recycling craft villages, Trieu Khuc, there are about 77 businesses and 300 people engaged in recycling which helps generate employment. Another village with 600 people employed in the recycling industry annually produces 5000 tons of products that are sold to factories in the capital or exported to China. Another craft village that recycles plastic earns a monthly revenue of USD 21, 581.
The benefits accrued by local communities from craft villages have increased the scale of craft production. However, the lack of sufficient investment in infrastructure means that waste management arising from the production process itself has become a challenge. For example, waste recycling processes such as metal recycling with high consumption of coal have caused air pollution. Further, residues generated from paper and plastic recycling alone make up five to ten percent of the waste that is left untreated. Hence, such mismanaged recycling processes have raised environmental and health concerns for the community.
It is important that an effective coordination mechanism is developed with the local government. The craft villages must be supported with the required investments to upgrade their recycling processes. Further, since the development of craft villages is supported by national-level policy, such policies can also mandate the use of efficient infrastructures and recycling processes that minimize waste.
The recycling craft villages are exemplary models of waste management. Their enterprising and innovative nature through the initiation and autonomy of local communities contribute to socio-economic and environmental development. Their operational modality is not complex and can be easily replicated at local levels. However, government support, investments, and timely training are integral to making their working processes efficient and scalable.