Nguyen Van Tuyen (39), as a co-founder of an environmental company, sees this as an opportunity. In 2010, he co-founded a company that produces animal feed from used sugarcane and cassava pulp, cashew kernel skin, and pineapple skin. Seeing that local farmers used to burn all of those Areca leaves at the end of the growing season, he got the idea to transform them into environmentally-friendly plates, bowls, and spoons.
“I found out that there are machines that could press the leaves into molds and transform them into useful everyday items, so I decided to import it,” said Tuyen. At that time he was hoping that the machine could work as he imagine it and could prevent the local farmers from burning the unused leave and develop them into environmental products instead.
The first machine he ordered arrived in Viet Nam in September 2019. He immediately starts the process by gathering the leaves then he washes, and dries them. Once it’s dried out, he put it into the molds machine and presses it into desired shapes. The trial was a great success. The upcycle tableware-making process was so easy that he began training others to run the machine and employing local people to collect the leaves for him.
"The leaf plates help to reduce single-use plastic consumption," says Nguyen Thu Trang, Plastic Smart Cities project for Viet Nam, adding, “A leaf plate can be washed and reused several times".
Despite his extraordinary products, Tuyen's efforts to introduce his products to major supermarkets in Viet Nam get rejected, but this setback did not stop him. He keeps looking for ways to market his products, starting with small stores with environmentally-conscious customers.
Now, his hard work is finally paid off. Tuyen has connected with a local supermarket chain to sell his products in Phu Yen and exported thousands of leaf plates internationally to the US, Poland, and Germany markets. His invention won a prize in a contest to reduce plastic waste organized by WWF-Viet Nam.
Tuyen’s innovation to replace single-use plastic tableware is one of the examples that there are many possible ways for us to reduce and replace single-use plastic in our everyday lives. Nature has great potential that still has not been discovered yet. Hopefully, this great story will inspire many people to be more environmentally-conscious therefore so we can choose what’s better for our earth and our future generations.
Featured Image: © Shaikh Ibrahim via PixaHive