TOMRA CEO Tove Andersen participates in NPAP Plastic Talks panel

The National Plastic Action Partnership (NPAP) Plastic Talks took place on August 28, 2023 in Ha Noi, Vietnam where TOMRA CEO and President, Tove Andersen, participated in a panel discussion with industry representatives to discuss the UN's Global Plastic Treaty.

Participants of NPAP Plastic Talks panel in Hanoi, Vietnam August 2023
Participants of the NPAP Plastic Talks conference in Vietnam

Millions of tons of plastic exit the recycling system every year. Vietnam is no exception. According to a new report by the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and World Bank, the country in Southeast Asia wastes nearly 3 billion U.S. dollars’ worth of recyclable plastics annually due to the lack of waste management infrastructure. Of the 3.9 million tons of PET and polyolefins (PO) produced in Vietnam, only 33% are collected for recycling. With global warming becoming more evident and plastic production and pollution increasing at a rapid pace, Vietnam is set to take action against plastic pollution and mitigate climate change. The country set ambitious targets, including a 50% reduction of plastic litter leakage into the ocean by 2025, the introduction of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) policies and formalizing the informal waste sector. In response to Vietnam’s commitment to the cause, it has been invited to become a member of the High Ambition Coalition (HAC) to support the realization of the Paris Agreement.

Plastic pollution and its aftermath are not a regional challenge. It has global impacts. To end plastic pollution, UN member states are committed to developing an agreement to end plastic litter leakage. First discussed in Nairobi in March 2022, the UN Treaty on Plastic Pollution has the power to catalyze the swift implementation of waste management and recycling systems, address the plastic pollution crisis at scale and forge the path towards a circular economy for plastics.

To reach the country’s ambitions and examine the UN Global Plastic Treaty with industry experts, the National Plastic Action Partnership (NPAP), together with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), called for the NPAP Plastic Talk on August 28, in Ha Noi, Vietnam. The NPAP is a platform that brings together governments and other important stakeholders to act on plastic waste and pollution. The hybrid event is considered one of the measures Vietnam is taking to move forward in its fight against plastic pollution. Hosted by the UNDP and NPAP, the conference explored “How can business contribute to a Global Plastics Treaty.”

Agenda topics included: discussions about the different viewpoints and contributions of the private sector to the framework definition; implementation of the legally binding agreement on plastic pollution; and how the business coalition can foster partnerships in developing an ambitious and effective global agreement on plastics. Furthermore, presenters and panelists talked about the opportunities and challenges for plastic producers in Vietnam, considering that there are more opportunities than challenges.

TOMRA, one of the founding members of the Business Coalition for the Global Plastic Treaty and an impact leader in the industry, has been invited to join the plastic talks to share its point of view on the treaty, its expertise, and recommendations. During NPAP, Annupa Ahi, Vice President of Public Affairs at TOMRA Asia, held a presentation on “The role of Asian and Vietnamese Enterprises in the UN Plastic Treaty.” Additionally, TOMRA CEO Tove Andersen joined the concluding panel discussion with representatives from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, the Norwegian Embassy, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MONRE), TOMRA, and the Viet Nam Plastics Association.

Waste management in Asia is still in its infancy. The region has vast potential and opportunities to bring materials back into the loop. I see that Vietnam is taking on these challenges and is turning them into valuable opportunities for the country and society alike. We at TOMRA appreciate the collaboration we have with Vietnam and are confident that we can leverage our partnerships to help the country implement the necessary infrastructure and technologies to reach its goals. The concepts and technologies exist, but it is up to the countries and the industry to embrace these and make the most out of them.

Tove Andersen, TOMRA President and CEO
Tove Andersen TOMRA President and CEO

Part of the actions Vietnam is taking to tackle plastic pollution include the introduction of an EPR scheme in 2024 and the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions to reach its net zero goals. Vietnam was the first country in Southeast Asia to enact an EPR scheme in 2022. Andersen paid particular attention to how TOMRA supports Vietnam in negotiating the treaty and businesses, pointing out that TOMRA’s close collaborations with the Norwegian Embassy, the Business Coalition, and the NPAP, combined with its advanced technologies for collection and waste sorting, will enable Vietnam to unleash opportunities, collect recyclables, and sort and recycle them into high-quality secondary materials.

“We believe, that TOMRA's Holistic Resource System, which combines existing waste management practices to maximize collection of materials for recycling, has the capability to adapt to location requirements and future needs. It is our mission to enable a world without waste and our priority to welcome opportunities and strategic partnerships to make this happen,” says TOMRA President and CEO Tove Andersen.

In the long term, Vietnam, very traditional in waste management, is expected to undergo an impactful change in managing the tons of plastic produced, consumed, and discarded through a holistic approach that encompasses the entire plastic value chain and addresses the full lifecycle of plastic. Moreover, current waste management practices shall be improved, and the informal waste sector be integrated into formalized waste management and recycling infrastructures.

Collaboration beyond the UN Global Plastic Treaty

The event in Ha Noi was not the first meeting between TOMRA and local industry representatives. Their cooperation started earlier. In February 2023, TOMRA welcomed a senior delegation of MONRE at its headquarters in Germany and Norway to review the company’s state-of-the-art sorting machines for waste recycling and its deposit return system that provides beverage container collection rates of up to 90% or more, depending on the country. Given these promising recovery rates that are crucial for bringing greater circularity to the country and valuable recyclables out of the environment, TOMRA works closely with the Norwegian Embassy and MONRE. The joint actions include a proposal for DRS design for Vietnam and further holistic waste management concepts that help get closer to the concept of a circular economy.

Andersen concludes: “I am impressed by Vietnam’s commitment to tackling plastic pollution and glad that TOMRA will be part of their journey to a circular economy. For us, a solution should include advancing current waste management practices and integrating the informal waste sector into a formalized waste management and recycling infrastructure, not only in Vietnam but globally. With each step we take, we are creating a healthier planet and additional jobs.”

After joining the new office opening of TOMRA in Xiamen, China, and the successful participation at the National Plastic Action Partnership (NPAP) Plastic Talks in Ha Noi, Tove Andersen met the Minister of MONRE. It has been emphasized that TOMRA will continue to collaborate with the Norwegian Embassy to support Vietnam in implementing the EPR system, to help in its transition to a circular economy, and to achieve the NetZero goals Vietnam committed at the UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26).