Fashioning new from the old, a Vietnamese woman in Hanoi has established a business producing bags from recycled plastic and cloth, leaving behind no waste.
As a person having practiced eco-friendly lifestyle for several years, 35-year-old Do Dieu Linh has always prioritized canvas bags, cloth bags, and reusable personal containers, while restricting single-use plastic ones.
Linh has always wished to replace plastic bags that people often take from daily shopping with cloth or recycled plastic alternatives.
“Each shopper can reduce about 2,000 plastic bags every year if they use cloth or recycled plastic bags,” she estimated.
Linh was suggested by her friends to create cloth shopping bags in 2019, taking advantage of rags in the fabric production process in combination with waterproof materials that she collected.
At the beginning of the business, she contacted local printing houses to collect their faulty products made from hiflex -- a loosely woven material from strips of polypropylene plastic also known as tarpaulin, including backdrops, banners, umbrellas, outdoor light boxes and billboards.
However, as the printing houses’ defective products were not of good quality, the woman started sourcing the material from agencies specializing in organizing events, fairs, and exhibitions.
So far, those agencies have become Linh’s ‘close suppliers.’
The collected plastic materials will then be cleaned and dried before merged with cloth and tailored and cut into sturdy, attractive bags.
“No words can describe my feelings when successfully transforming discarded materials into usable things," Linh said.
"It is the motivation for me to collect leftover plastic wherever I can.
“Sometimes I don’t see it as trash anymore, but more like a resource.
Along the run of her business under the brand Gaea, Linh produced and sold about 1,000 recycled-material bags at low prices to attract customers.
The business has also expanded to include 20 different products, such as passport and other personal document covers, headphone containers, and cup pads, which are put on sale at eco-friendly product stores across Hanoi.
It is estimated that after more than a year, the Gaea brand has recycled more than 10,000 square meters of hiflex material and produced over 5,000 products of all kinds to the market.
Its production facility, which is located in northern Thai Binh Province, has also created jobs for several rural female tailors.
“I want to recycle until no more hiflex is released into the environment,” Linh said.
One of the challenges for Linh’s business is that the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has made it difficult for her to source used plastic materials as fewer events are organized.
However, the businesswoman sees this as good luck.
“They don’t use tarpaulins anymore, so the amount of tarpaulin released into the environment has shrunk,” Linh said.