Vietnam can save nearly US$1 billion a year if plastic waste is recycled effectively at home, cutting the need for imports, experts say.
The Vietnam Plastic Association estimates that if 35-50 percent of plastic is recycled, businesses won't have to spend the $2.5 billion every year importing raw materials to make plastic products.
Also, selling prices of end products can fall by as much as 15 percent cheaper.
According to the Waste Recycling Fund, plastic waste accounts for the second largest component of solid waste in urban areas after food. However this plastic waste has not been recycled properly.
Only 10 percent of the waste is collected by scrap dealers every year. HCMC gets about 250,000 tons of new plastic a year, and around 48,000 tons of plastic waste is discharged or buried, the fund estimates.
It found that last year, there were 648 small and medium plastic recycling plants are operating in the city, some for more than 30 years, but most carried very low investments of between VND5-10 million ($265-530).
Ngo Nguyen Ngoc Thanh, a member of the fund, said none of the plants implemented any measures to protect the environment, whether it was the smell, exhaust fumes, wastewater, garbage or noise.
Thanh said only 10 percent of the plants cleaned the waste before recycling it.
"Fire also threatens these places constantly as they make use of any space possible and waste is not kept at a safe distance."
In the end, products from these plants are of low quality, he said.
Le Van Khoa, director of HCMC Waste Recycling Fund, said plastic waste was not biodegradable for the most part, thus causing serious environmental problems when it is thrown out or buried.