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Vietnam’s Trashageddon: The Unsuspecting Impact of Global Waste Disposal in Southeast Asia

Ben Phillips | Country Analyst

One of Vietnam’s largest and most internationally accessible ports, Hiep Phuoc port in Ho Chi Minh City, is currently experiencing a surge in import deliveries, causing serious congestion and week-long shipment delays. Cat Lai, a port located in southern Vietnam, is suffering from a similar phenomenon where they are importing 120% over their handling capacity, causing tremendous setbacks and serious delays in export operations. Over the past few months, ports throughout Vietnam have been exposed to similar difficulties by dangerously exceeding their capacity limits, leading to slower output and direct stoppages in supply chain procedures.

The cause behind this recent surge in port delays throughout Vietnam has left supply chain operators stumped and weeks behind schedule. However, through the use of groundTruth’s hyper local data collection, we have been able to track the Vietnamese port system and successfully analyze their operations on a global scale. This has allowed us to understand the influx of imports as a by-product of China’s recent national import ban on waste and recyclables.

At the beginning of 2018, China announced that it would no longer import 24 different types of waste, sending an alarming and unpredicted shock wave throughout the global waste and recycling industry. For years, China had been the largest importer of trash in the world, opening its borders to nearly 60% of the global waste produced.  With China now refusing to be the world’s garbage disposal, Vietnam looks to capitalize on the opportunity by becoming a global player in the multi-billion dollar waste industry.


In the first five months of 2018, Vietnam has doubled its waste imports in comparison to the entirety of 2017. The growth in Vietnam’s waste imports have been so drastic that between 30% and 40% of China’s licensed recyclers have moved their operations to Vietnam and its surrounding regions. While Vietnam’s new waste venture may be creating a new outlet for economic development, its impact on the country’s port system is not sustainable.  Vietnam currently has 44 seaports with a total handling capacity of about 450 million tons a year, about 15 times smaller than that of China.

The effects of Vietnam’s gross overestimation of its ability to process massive amounts of waste is only beginning to materialize, as ports throughout the country are scrambling to minimize congestion and keep operations on schedule. Major international ports have had to delay export shipments due to the exhausted transportation system and sheer lack of container space.

However, by coordinating with groundTruth Global, companies can see potential port delays before they materialize, allowing them to make adequate adjustments and ensure their supply chain remains undisrupted. Furthermore, our in-depth and comprehensive knowledge regarding local level disruptions allows companies to avoid unnecessary risk while better understanding the context of supply chain disruption.