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Vietnamese man pushes sustainability message by recycling waste into accessories

Thursday, July 23, 2020, 09:43 GMT+7
Vietnamese man pushes sustainability message by recycling waste into accessories
Ho Cong Thang chisels a log washed ashore into an adornment at his workshop in Hoi An City, Quang Nam Province in central Vietnam. Photo: Doan Nhan / Tuoi Tre

A young man trained in pharmacology and mechanics puts immense passion and effort into his startup in Hoi An City that crafts decorative items completely out of trash collected from his hometown’s beaches.

Ho Cong Thang, 32, runs a workshop in Hoi An, located in central Quang Nam Province, where he and his partners have been crafting one-of-a-kind products which are both functional and ornamental from recycled waste, as well as a space to display the items.

Despite his training in pharmacology and mechanics, he chose to launch his startup based on his childhood passion of making toy animals and other handcrafted items.   

Decorative items crafted from recycled waste at Ho Cong Thang’s workshop, snuggled in Hoi An City, Quang Nam Province in central Vietnam, fetch prices ranging from a few dollars to hundreds of US dollars apiece. Photo: Doan Nhan / Tuoi Tre

Decorative items crafted from recycled waste at Ho Cong Thang’s workshop, snuggled in Hoi An City, Quang Nam Province in central Vietnam, fetch prices ranging from a few dollars to hundreds of U.S. dollars apiece. Photo: Doan Nhan / Tuoi Tre

While making eco-friendly items from recycled materials seems a trendy move in today’s increasingly environmentally-conscious world, Thang’s journey to get the business off the ground and spread the message of a green lifestyle was not without its challenges.

He developed a fondness for decorative items in his childhood.

“While herding buffalos back then, I would shape clay into miniature animals or make paper flowers, plants and pots. I’ve been infatuated with handmade items since,” he recalled.

Ho Cong Thang’s workshop, snuggled in Hoi An City, Quang Nam Province in central Vietnam, brims with household utensils and adornments from recyclable waste. Photo: Doan Nhan / Tuoi Tre

Ho Cong Thang’s workshop, snuggled in Hoi An City, Quang Nam Province in central Vietnam, brims with household utensils and adornments from recyclable waste. Photo: Doan Nhan / Tuoi Tre

Thang was also very concerned with keeping the environment free of trash, going to great lengths to pick up litter on local An Bang Beach.

He later decided to merge his childhood passion and his garbage collecting routine when the idea of launching a startup in recycling waste into accessories came to him four years ago.

“Why don’t I try giving waste a second life and make it my own means of livelihood? It may also be a better step toward a cleaner environment,” Thang pondered.

Ho Cong Thang poses with a wash basin modified from a plastic buoy that washed ashore at his workshop in Hoi An City, Quang Nam Province in central Vietnam. Photo: Doan Nhan / Tuoi Tre

Ho Cong Thang poses with a wash basin modified from a plastic buoy that washed ashore at his workshop in Hoi An City, Quang Nam Province in central Vietnam. Photo: Doan Nhan / Tuoi Tre

He began with light bulbs, plastic buoys and bottles washed ashore before moving on to thrown-away tires, pieces of wood, and any kind of waste he could get his hands on.

Thanks to Thang’s creativity and craftsmanship, items that may otherwise end up in trash bins now come alive as wood paintings, household utensils, decorative items, and plant pots. 

The works take simple tools including chiseling, planing, cutting and grinding machines, and hours to generate ideas and perform magic, he revealed.  

One of Ho Cong Thang’s wooden adornments, which are highly sought after by restaurants and hotels throughout Hoi An City, Quang Nam Province and other localities, is seen in this supplied photo.

One of Ho Cong Thang’s wooden adornments, which are highly sought after by restaurants and hotels throughout Hoi An City, Quang Nam Province and other localities, is seen in this supplied photo.

Thang gifted his family and friends his first batch of products, which were warmly embraced. He began to make more items and offer them for sale on his Facebook.

Orders began to flood in. His expanding clientele, who come from across the country and even other parts of the world, show keen interest in his eco-friendly alternatives at ‘green’ fairs. 

Thang also churns out trash bins and game models from recyclable materials to be placed at beaches and tourist attractions in Hoi An City and Da Nang City, approximately 30 kilometers away.

Ho Cong Thang introduces his products crafted from recycled waste at his showroom in Da Nang City in central Vietnam. Photo: Doan Nhan / Tuoi Tre

Ho Cong Thang introduces his products crafted from recycled waste at his showroom in Da Nang City in central Vietnam. Photo: Doan Nhan / Tuoi Tre

However, Thang’s business was not always smooth sailing.

With his products priced from a few dollars to a few hundred U.S. dollars apiece, one of the challenges is many of his customers’ failure to appreciate the real value of the handicrafts made from recyclable materials.

Thang said he often shares his ideas and tutorials of recycling on social networks to highlight the value of his items and help promote awareness of environmental protection.

Customers are delighted at embellishing items introduced by Ho Cong Thang (second, right) at his workshop in Hoi An City, Vietnam, where they also learn how to make the products. Photo: Doan Nhan / Tuoi Tre

Customers are delighted at embellishing items introduced by Ho Cong Thang (second right) at his workshop in Hoi An City, Vietnam, where they also learn how to make the products. Photo: Doan Nhan / Tuoi Tre

“If viewers can do as instructed in my tutorials, it’ll be great as more waste will be recycled. Those who fail to do so may place orders with us. Once they experience the process of making the items themselves, they’ll be more appreciative of their worth and won’t find them expensive anymore,” the man stressed, adding he has depended on this new approach to promote his products. 

He plans to launch his own YouTube channel to better show viewers how to craft items from recyclable waste as part of a sustainability push.

A wooden painting featuring two fish is crafted from waste timber at Ho Cong Thang’s workshop, snuggled in Hoi An City, Quang Nam Province in central Vietnam. Photo: Doan Nhan / Tuoi Tre

A wooden painting featuring two fish is crafted from waste timber at Ho Cong Thang’s workshop, snuggled in Hoi An City, Quang Nam Province in central Vietnam. Photo: Doan Nhan / Tuoi Tre

Le La, one of Thang’s partners, said he is opening a showroom in Da Nang City.

“We’re also planning to offer customers tours around this workshop and give instructions on how to turn otherwise worthless stuff into useful things again right at the spot. Once they get hands-on experiences, they’ll come to appreciate the items’ real value and be motivated to be more environmentally conscious,” La noted.

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