Ministries and Coordination Mechanism
The Ministry of Public Works and Transport (MPWT) and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MoNRE, established in 2011) are responsible for solid waste management in the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Lao PDR). Although with less authority over solid waste issues than MPWT, MoNRE has become a bridge for international activities in the solid waste sector in the country (Global Green Growth Institute, 2018). Other ministries that manage solid waste are the Ministry of Public Health, for medical waste management; the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, for regulations on composting from the agricultural sector; the Ministry of Communications, Transport, Posts, and Construction (MCTPC); and the Ministry of Energy and Mines, which does not have specific role in solid waste management at present but is expected to play a vital role in transforming waste into energy (Global Green Growth Institute, 2018; Khanal & Souksavath, n.d.).
Lao PDR established the Science, Technology, and Environment Organization (STENO) after the 1992 Rio Earth Summit. Based on Lao PDR’s environment protection law, STENO will manage solid waste at the national level, and environmental management and monitoring at the ministerial, provincial, special zone, municipal, district, and village levels. At the provincial level, the Department of Communications, Transports, Posts, and Construction, which works under MCPTC, manages solid waste with STENO (Khanal and Souksavath, n.d.).
Global Green Growth Institute (2018), Solid Waste Management in Vientiane, Lao P.D.R. http://gggi.org/site/assets/uploads/2018/09/Solid-Waste-Management-in-Vientiane-Lao-P.D.R.pdf (accessed 25 October 2019).
Khanal, B.R. and B. Souksavath (n.d.), Environmental Management Measures and Current Practices in Solid Waste Management: A Case Study from Vientiane, Lao People’s Democratic Republic. https://think-asia.org/bitstream/handle/11540/1733/Volume%202_No%201_Oct%202005_05.pdf?sequence=1 (accessed 19 November 2019).
National Laws and Regulation
As the waste management issue has only recently surfaced in Lao PDR, the country does not yet have regulations on general waste management (MoNRE, 2012). However, Lao PDR has several legal frameworks related to solid waste management:
- Environmental Protection Law No. 29/NA 2013
Enacted in 2012 as a revised version of the Environmental Protection law No. 02-99/NA 1999, this law requires individuals or organisations that potentially emit pollutants to take measures to prevent environmental degradation caused by several materials, including waste (Article 25). The separation of general waste should be based on recycling, reuse, reprocessing, and elimination. Treatment of toxic and hazardous waste encompasses dumping, burning, cremation, burying, or elimination (Article 38). The law restricts importation of toxic and hazardous waste. Specific regulations apply to business enterprises and hospitals that produce hazardous waste (Article 39).
- Industrial Waste Discharge Regulation No. 180/MIH 1994
This regulation aims to manage threats from the disposal of industrial waste or wastewater that can detrimentally impact water quality, health, and human life (Article 1). Any solid materials, including plastic bags, are prohibited from being disposed of into the environment and public water sources (Article 3 number 3.3). Additionally, industries treating their waste should follow the standard set by the regulation (Article 8).
- Law on Industrial Processing No. 10/PO 1999
Wastes from manufacturing must be discharged based on methods and locations set by regulations (Article 19).
- Decree on Waste Management for Healthcare Facilities (No. 1706/MOH, 2/7/2004)
This regulates several actions related to waste from healthcare facilities, such as the mechanism of waste separation (Article 8), collection and storage (Article 9), management and internal relocation (Article 10), and collective storage and length of time (Article 12 and 13) (Sato et al., 2018).
Ministry of Industry-Handicraft (1994), Industrial Waste Discharge Regulation, http://extwprlegs1.fao.org/docs/pdf/lao17659.pdf (accessed 25 October 2019).
National Assembly (1999a), Environmental Protection Law. https://www.ilo.org/dyn/natlex/docs/ELECTRONIC/81050/87930/F-459975335/LAO81050.pdf (accessed 25 October 2019).
National Assembly (1999b), Law on the Processing Industry. http://vientiane.thaiembassy.org/upload/pdf/law/02-economy/15_IndustrialProcessing-Decree1999Eng.pdf (accessed 25 October 2019).
National Assembly (2013), Environmental Protection Law (revised version). http://extwprlegs1.fao.org/docs/pdf/lao151747.pdf (accessed 25 October 2019).
Sato, N., P. Phonvisai, P. Sonthavy, and R. Ogawa (2018), Current Condition and Issues of Municipal Solid Waste Management in Vientiane Capital, Luang Prabang District, and Xayabouri District in Laos People’s Democratic Republic. https://bit.ly/2PLIRLz (accessed 23 December 2019).
At the local level, campaigns are the dominant mode in reducing plastic waste. In 2016, The Asia Foundation launched the ‘Love Laos: Keep it Clean’ campaign that aims to inspire people to stop littering and encourage recycling and composting. Several cities are targets of this movement, including Bolikhamxay, Luang Prabang, and Khammouane. The campaign was started by establishing waste management projects in several schools and communities. The projects included financial opportunities and education on subjects like selling materials for recycling and using organic material for fertiliser in vegetable gardens. A short movie competition was held in 2016 to raise awareness on waste, littering, and improper waste discharge. All these are expected to lead to more sustainable habits (Handerson, 2017).
The Faculty of Environmental Science at the National University of Laos, the Hanoi University of Sciences, and other organisations collaborated in ‘SEA Plastic Edu Rasmus+ Project’, a project to minimise plastic use and enhance the quality of environment. Targeting government officials, the private sector, teachers, and students, the project consists of training on plastic recycling and plastic exchange management, lessons on characteristics and use of plastic waste, ways of managing waste, and recycling and examination of different types of plastic waste (Bubphanouvong, 2019).
The city of Luang Prabang, a tourist destination, conducts campaigns, through its tourism industry, to reduce the massive number of plastic water bottles. Hotels, tour operators, restaurants, cafes, and museums provide refill stations for free or cheaper drinking water. Several businesses have started to ban plastic bottles through the Refill Not Landfill activity. Some businesses have been asked to switch from plastic to non-plastic reusable bottles to involve tourists in efforts to reduce plastic waste (The Laotian Times, 2018).
Bubphanouvong, S. (2019), NUOL, Hanoi University Making Progress in Reducing Plastic Use. http://vientianetimes.org.la/freeContent/FreeConten_NUOL_230.php (accessed 19 November 2019).
Handersen, D. (2017), Love Laos: Keep it Clean. https://asiafoundation.org/2017/04/19/love-laos-keep-clean/ (accessed 19 November 2019).
The Laotian Times (2018), ‘Reducing single-use plastic bottle consumption in Luang Prabang’, The Laotian Times. https://laotiantimes.com/2018/04/01/reducing-single-use-plastic-bottle-consumption-in-luang-prabang/ (accessed 19 November 2019).
Vientiane Capital City. (2016). City report (draft) Vientiane Capital City. https://www.uncrd.or.jp/content/documents/3920Front%20page_City%20Report_Vinetiane.pdf (accessed 19 November 2019).
Action Plans and Roadmaps
MoNRE (2012) set the National Environmental Strategy to 2020 and the Environment Action Plan 2006–2010 to focus on seven programmes. However, none specifically targets waste management. The National Pollution Control Strategy and Action Plan 2018–2015 with Vision to 2030, however, covers several environmental issues, including solid waste management. The overall targets of solid waste management in this action plan consist of development of policies and recommendations for industries that could potentially endanger the environment, local institutional reinforcement at provincial and local levels, capacity and infrastructure improvement for strategic solid waste management, and revenue generation from recycling and recovery facilities (MoNRE, 2017).
Besides an environment-based action plan, waste management is discussed in the Renewable Energy Strategy to 2025, in which the waste-to-energy sector is a main concern as Lao PDR faces long-term higher demand for renewable energy. Renewable energy is expected to contribute up to 30% of Lao PDR’s energy sources by 2025 (MoNRE, 2012).
Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MoNRE) Vientiane, (2012), National Rio+20 report for Lao PDR. https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/content/documents/1017laonationalreport.pdf (accessed 25 October 2019).
Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MoNRE) (2017), National Pollution Control Strategy and Action Plan 2018-2025, with Vision to 2030. http://www.gms-eoc.org/uploads/resources/922/attachment/Laos-Pollution-Strategy-Plan-2018-2025-draft.pdf (accessed 25 October 2019).