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Earning money from trash – Story 2: The story of PET packing straps

GreenHub has been working with the Women’s Union in Ha Long City to introduce innovative ways to reduce plastic waste and provide new livelihoods for local women by repurposing this plastic waste. GreenHub has been working with these women for some time to produce new plastic products from recycled plastic banners. Recently, they have commenced working with a new product – recycled plastic straps salvaged from construction work. This is the story of how this came about.

A story shared by aunt

In the office the other day, I realized that my colleague has a pen box that is made from recycled products. Surprisingly, this pen box is made from plastic straps. This interesting discovery made  me want to find out more and led me to Ms. Binh- a creator of packing strap goods and to explore her story.

Arriving at Ms Binh’s house, she gave me a warm welcome with a cup of traditional tea.I was then given a tour of her home where many items made out of  plastic straps are on display. She started to tell me her story and showed me her works.

Binh with her recycled strap knit baskets

First time “decorating house” by litter

The idea of creating items from plastic straps came to her while going to the market. Ms. Binh realized that almost all handmade baskets are produced from fresh plastic. After several uses, they are turned into lower quality. In this way, more and more plastic is released into the environment while people keep using these materials day by day. She also witnessed daily the disposal of PET straps which are mostly applied to tie and carry bricks in her areas. She decided to collect these straps and give them new lives. 

Turing PET straps into useful products

However, it was not easy to carry this idea. Ms. Binh and her crew collect all the PET straps that they find both centrally in regional manufacturing areas and outside the industrial areas. They keep this action as a hobby, though so far they get stable input. “Now we are well-known for collecting PET straps. Residents always recognise us whenever they see us picking up the plastic straps”, she added jokingly. 

The collected straps are washed and color classified

The collected straps are washed and classified according to color. This can be quite a time intensive task. However, this process is conducted so thoroughly, producing baskets that are clean and beautiful, that people often do not realise they are recycled products. Carefully direct check by eyes is required to detect fraying and small stains.

Giving Plastic Straps A Second Life

The availability of the plastic straps  also depends on construction trends and can be seasonally dependent (construction normally slows during rainy months). However, the workers have never thought about using new plastic straps  instead. They bare in mind that their products make sense and are valuable because they are using recycled products. Their implementation brings the slogan “Protect the environment” into real life. It shows their hard-work in learning and producing, and dedication to reducing plastic waste.

Smiles knitted by plastic straps

Normally, a handcrafter only can weave a basket per day. This means that the final product is the  result of a very time intensive process.

The idea was accepted initially by almost all women in the collective who were willing to try something new.  However, they quickly realized their expectations were that it would be much easier than it worked out. Some felt despondent, some tried  to knit using moulds. However, they finally agreed that the key factor to the perfect baskets is skillful hands. They have also tried to match their items with customers’ demands by experimenting with many types of matching colors and materials. Over time, as they have had more practice, the process has become much easier.

Successful Outcomes 

Through these recycled products, the women together share happiness and passion which they can spread through the  message of refusing waste, protecting the environment and “living green”.