• Jarratt Ong

COVID's Impact on Waste Management and Recycling with Tam Nguyen

Here is a throwback to a knowledge huddle we had last year in June which we felt is still relevant today as we are still in the midst of making our way out of the pandemic.

GA Circular's mission is to create a world without waste by driving the transition towards a circular economy in Asia. They do this by enabling industries, investors, government and multilateral agencies and global foundations to unlock business opportunities from fast-growing streams of food and packaging waste.

Tam Nguyen from GA Circular, who is the Head of Operations, shared with us on the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on waste management, recycling companies, and the informal workers.

Impact on essential informal workers

A lot of the waste that we produce is supported by informal workers who sort out wastes and recyclables especially during the influx of "pandemic plastics".

While waste management is an essential service, there's little to no support through financial means or even through PPE access to ensure their safety for the informal workers.

Thankfully, a lot of NGOs have been stepping up through providing of meals and donations to get them through these difficult times.

There has also been a shortage of staff which has put intense pressure on these workers to keep up with the influx of waste. On top of this, as these are unprecedented times, the workers are also learning how to deal with the pandemic plastics safely and effectively.

Impact on Waste Management and Recycling Companies

For the recyclers, for the most part, as it is not an essential service, they were forced to close which affects their revenue and survival.

And for the recyclers, they've always had a challenge recycling itself even before the pandemic. The economics of it has always been a challenge. Also, once the recycler shuts down, it's not like they can just start back up their capacity quickly.

For Vietnam's case, even though some of the recyclers are starting up again as of May (2020) but they don't have buyers since most of their buyers are in China and there are the issues of import/exports right now.

How to support them?

GA Circular has been speaking with brand owners like Unilever, and Coca-Cola to create demand and ensure these informal workers are able to survive. They aim to make sure these brand owners stick to their global targets.

Tam also recommends that we reach out to local municipalities to make sure that these informal workers get through this period through donations and drive demand somehow.

"We really need to make sure this value chain survives. They're extremely important to this overall goal to reduce waste in this driving of the circular economy"

Check out the knowledge huddle throwback here!

0:00 Introduction

0:55 Shift in Waste During COVID

1:30 Essential Informal Workers

2:20 Waste Management and Recycling Companies

4:20 How to Support Them

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