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Assessment of circular economy in Vietnamese plastic industry using ReSOLVE framework

Published onJun 21, 2023
Assessment of circular economy in Vietnamese plastic industry using ReSOLVE framework
Thanh-Khiet L. Bui1,*, Thi Yen Ta2, Kieu Lan Phuong Nguyen3, Hong Quan Nguyen1,4
1Institute for Circular Economy Development, Vietnam National University-Ho Chi Minh City, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam;
2Faculty of Environmental, Hanoi University of Natural Resources and Environment, Hanoi, Vietnam;
3Faculty of Environmental and Food Engineering, Nguyen Tat Thanh University, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam;
4Center of Water Management and Climate Change, Institute for Environment and Resources, Vietnam National University-Ho Chi Minh City, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
*E-mail: [email protected]

Extended abstract

Plastics have been produced industrially since the second half of the 19th century, and there has been a rapid increase in both their types and quantities (Atlas, 2019). In addition, there has been a tremendous improvement in the manufacturing and performance characteristics of plastics, including their rheological, mechanical, thermal, structural, morphological, and optical qualities. Various plastic additives, including stabilizers, colorants, plasticizers, fillers and reinforcing fibers, UV absorbers, antioxidants, and handling aids like lubricants and flow promoters, are used to achieve this enhancement. The expansion of this industry has prompted mill manufacturers to enter it and create related processing methods, like extrusion and injection molding (Tadmor and Gogos, 2006). The simultaneous development of plasticizers and processing facilities has made a significant contribution to technical advancements in industries including construction, electronics, electricity, transportation, and construction. Additionally, this progress makes it possible to lower the price of the goods and services offered by these sectors and expand the social groups to which they are available.

In addition, up until recent decades, the growth of the plastics sector was represented by the so-called "Linear Economic Model," which put a heavy emphasis on the lifespan of plastic items. The "take, make, and throw away" idea serves as the foundation for this paradigm (Ghosh, 2020). The linear economic model principally focuses on two assumptions: first, that the accessible fossil resources are unbounded; and second, that it is unnecessary and undesirable to recover plastic products after their useful lives. The plastics business is currently focusing on increasing the effectiveness, quality, and design of plastic items to better suit consumer demand. The linear economic model excludes waste management from its scope. As a result, a substantial volume of mismanaged plastic waste has been discharged directly into the environment (Atlas, 2019; Ocean Conservancy, 2019). Additionally, plastic products' intricate designs make them challenging to disassemble or dismantle, which contributes to the rising losses from recycling loops. Plastic and plastic additives that are released into the environment are both hazardous to living organisms (Hermabessiere et al., 2017; Schmidt et al., 2020). The circular economy model was introduced in the plastics industry recently as a result of rising environmental awareness on a societal and regulatory level. This concept suggests recycling plastic waste generated after it served its purposes efficiently and effectively (Ghosh, 2020).

To ensure that natural resources will continue to be available, industries are shifting to circular economy approaches to be more sustainable. This study assesses how Vietnamese plastic industries are implementing the circular economy concept using the ReSOLVE framework (Ellen MacArthur Foundation, 2015). A survey was taken using a questionnaire with a total of 40 practices corresponding to the six actions in the ReSOLVE framework to evaluate companies' performances. The result showed that the most widely used actions are “Optimize” (3.5 points) and “Loop” (3.4 points), this reflects the company's specificity of operating production, so they will focus more on the operation. Next is “Regenerate” (3.4 points) with waste management for reuse, this reuse aims to save costs to avoid loss of resources and “Exchange” (3.1 points) with updating products/services as well as new technology for production activities. Meanwhile “Virtualize” and “Share” have lower compliance, scoring 2.8 and 1.9, respectively. Approximately 10% of practices exceeded 50% compliance when considering the sum of established practices and optimized practices. For “Optimize” and “Loop”, the levels of newly established and established dominated, although this domination was not great. The actions “Share” and “Virtualize” are still not considered the most important, especially “Share”.

The most applied circular economy practices by companies were: “Has closed cycle of water use in process” (6.7 points), followed by other practices: “Has waste management for regeneration”; “Practice reusing products”; “Using reusable and/or recyclable inputs (e.g. packaging)” all scored 5.3 points, most of which fall within the actions “Optimize” and “Loop” except for the practice “Has waste management for regeneration”. In the action “Regenerate”, the practice of “Using energy from renewable (clean) sources” is rated as the least important. In the action of “Share”, the practice of “Using old (used) products” is considered the most important; in contrast, practices such as “Offer Renting, Sharing, Leasing and Franchising” and “Performing Life Cycle Assessment” are the least important practices. Regarding the action of “Optimize”, the most unattractive practice is “Encouraging customers and suppliers to reduce consumption”. For the “Loop” action, the practices in this are all related to reuse/recycling; however, practices related to waste-to-energy and product design that takes into account reuse and recycling are among the least practiced. Although the adoption of digital technology can support the adoption of circular economy practices (Salvador et al., 2021); however, "Virtualize" was the second lowest-scoring action after “Sharing”, the common practices here are mostly focused on buying and selling activities. The final action in the ReSOLVE framework is “Exchange”, for businesses, they only focus on updating products/services as well as updating new technologies to be more effective.

In general, the result also showed that companies had below-average scores for all six actions in the ReSOLVE framework, which indicated that the application of circular economy in the plastic industry was still low. The real reason was that companies might not understand the circular economy very clearly and the economy was the main driving force for businesses, not the sustainable development goal.


Circular practices, Vietnamese plastic industry, sustainability, ReSOLVE framework, circular economy. 


Atlas, P. 2019. Facts and figures about the world of synthetic polymers. Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung, Berlin.

Ellen MacArthur Foundation. 2015. Growth within: A Circular Economy Vision for a Competitive Europe, 

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Hermabessiere, L., Dehaut, A., Paul-Pont, I., Lacroix, C., Jezequel, R., Soudant, P. & Duflos, G. 2017. Occurrence and effects of plastic additives on marine environments and organisms: A review. Chemosphere, 182(781-793.

Ocean Conservancy 2019. The Beach and Beyond, International Coastal Cleanup 2019 Report. The Ocean Conservancy.

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Tadmor, Z. & Gogos, C. G. 2006. Principles of polymer processing: John Wiley & Sons.

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