Scaling-up Integrated and Inclusive Waste Management Models through Empowering the Informal Sector and Fostering the Circular Economy (Phase 2)


According to the National Environment Report 2019 (published in 2020), every day the amount of Municipal solid waste (MSW) generated in urban areas is 35,624 tons and in rural areas is 28,394 tons/day. Compared to 2010, the total volume of MSW generated nationwide has increased by 46%. It is forecasted that the generation rate of MSW will increase 5%/year, the total amount of waste will reach to 54 million tons by 2030 (World Bank, 2018). Regarding collection and treatment, the collection rate is 92% in urban areas and 66% in rural areas, of which 71% of collected waste is treated by landfilling, 13% by incineration and 16% by composting (National Environment Report, 2020). In particular, plastic waste accounts for about 10-12% of the total solid waste generated in Viet Nam, equivalent to about 1.8 million tons annually.

Although essential to the improvement of waste management systems, at-source separation is not commonly found in Viet Nam. Challenges in classification, collection, transportation and treatment of solid waste include (i) poor awareness, lack of responsibility of the authorities, community and businesses in MSW management, (ii) lack of infrastructure for waste collection and classification, (iii) difficulty of municipality in selection of location to build/install centers for collection and classification, (iv) weak capacity of MSW management in many localities , (v) the system of policies, regulations, and guidelines related to solid waste management is still incomplete, (vi) lack of an effective operating mechanism that connects producers, consumers and management agencies, leading to limitations in mobilizing resources for MSW management, etc. There is however, some spontaneous waste separation that exists, driven mainly by the economic gains of reselling some recyclables, such as glass, carton, plastic. Pilots took place in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, but these have rarely been sustainable.

The informal sector plays a pivotal role in the solid waste management system in Viet Nam as over 30% of the waste is estimated to be collected through this channel. The majority of IWWs are women. Also known as 'Dong Nat,' they buy or collect waste from households to resell to larger recyclers, which supply craft villages. Between 10,000 and 16,000 waste pickers work every day in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City respectively. Their role in material recovery and diverting waste from landfills is often overlooked by both the local authorities and the authority-licensed municipal waste collection services. Although IWWs in Viet Nam are often portrayed as dirty, poor and at the bottom of the waste sector, these IWWs are in fact the real workhorse of the waste collection system in Viet Nam and make a significant contribution to the economy and society - if they did not exist, the country would be facing even more insurmountable waste management problems.

The comprehensive research and surveys of IWWs conducted by UNDP in Da Nang provided a number of insights into IWWs working lives and social conditions. Although IWWs are working independently, their livelihood is related to the quality of their professional networks. By establishing long term relationships with business contacts, they can avoid collecting trash from the streets and the bins, but rather directly collect from them. IWWs also suffer from societal stigma and poor social status, a lack of recognition, and general misconceptions about them among the general public. In Da Nang, for instance, our study estimated that they recover between 7 and 10% of municipal waste, which considerably reduces the amount of waste brought to the landfills.


The project’s objective is to deploy and test a range of interventions including on the ground support interventions for IWWs who are mainly women, a sector-focused WM model in fisheries, and an ecosystem-level approach at innovating the value chain through an MRF), and then refining these models based upon the deployment and learning with a view to continued and scaled-up deployment supported by a programme of capacity development and knowledge creation, sharing and dissemination.

Expected Results

Outcome 1: Sustainable models of waste management that increase livelihoods of waste workers (with a focus on women informal workers), implemented

  • Series of Interventions to empower IWWS who are mainly women, and strengthen their resilience to withstand shocks, including the impacts of COVID-19, implemented
  • Integrated waste management model in the fishery sector established, which will engage both fishermen and women-led cooperatives
  • An inclusive Material Recovery Facility for Improved Local Material Value Chain piloted and established

Outcome 2: Scaling and take-up of sustainable and inclusive waste management models and interventions through replication support, capacity development and knowledge-sharing

  • Replication, Scaling, Sustainability and Take-up of Outcome 1 assets developed and implemented
  • Knowledge and Intelligence Generated are systematically Collected and Disseminated, to catalyze online, national and regional-level learning and support replication



November 2021


June 2024




Viet Nam


United Nations Development Programme










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