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Woman gives organic waste a second life

Update: November, 08/2015 - 02:18
How-to: Trinh Thi Hong (centre) shows the Lien Chieu Women's Club how to make the concoction from organic waste for cleaning and deodorising purposes.

Trinh Thi Hong wanted to find a solution for all the waste building up in her neighbourhood. Now she ferments it and turns it into affordable cleaning supplies. Do Thuy reports.

Everyday household activities like showering, washing the dishes, mopping the floor or cleaning the windows may unsuspectingly cause harm. The cleaning agents often used in these chores contain chemicals that may cause harm to people's skin and greater health.

Trinh Thi Hong, 50, from Da Nang City, was inspired to make safe cleaning products by a lifetime spent with some of Viet Nam's poorest and most disadvantaged people.

At just one-month-old, Hong was orphaned. She, along with her siblings, were raised by her 17-year-old sister. She spent most of her difficult childhood travelling, getting to know her countrymen and the hardness of daily life in poverty-stricken communities.

Her upbringing led her to devote her life to improving the lives of the poor. As vice president of the Da Nang Association of Charity and Children Right Protection, she raises money to support local people in need.

For Hong, a truly better life requires a better environment.

"Environmental pollution is more and more serious. On average, a household creates 2kg of waste per day, 70 per cent of which is organic waste," she said. "If this waste is not treated quickly, it becomes a breeding ground for flies and other insects that are then harmful to people's health."

Searching for a way forward, she thought that maybe she could turn this waste into profit, which would both raise incomes and reduce harmfulness. So when she heard about a process by which waste could be turned into cleaning products at an Asian community development conference in the Philippines in 2012, she got to work.

"I had to examine the water, climate and quantity of waste to form my own recipe, which contains 3kg of organic wastes such as vegetables, fruits' peels, sugar cane refuse, leaves; 300 grams of sugar; and 10 litres of water," Hong said.

Then, she said, "the waste is washed and cut into pieces of three to five centimetres. The materials are soaked in a sealed bucket. After 30 days, the mixture is filtered before becoming a usable products."

Simple formula: organic waste chopped at 3-cm long, mixed well with the rest of the ingredients and packed in air-tight containers for 30 days.

The first washing and floor-cleaning liquids were produced in April 2012. She was surprised by the products' effectiveness.

"The liquid can get rid of bad odours in floors and helps to reduce mosquitoes by 80 per cent," she said. She also uses the product to clean her dishes, motorbikes, glass and stoves.

"When I succeeded in making the liquids for the first time, I was so happy I was in tears. I finally found a way to help poor and low income households get out of poverty. The people in my community can have a better life and also improve environmental pollution," she said.

However, along with this happiness, Hong worried about how to ensure the products' quality, market them and teach people to make them.

In 2013, Hong asked the Centre of Quality Measures II (CQM) at the Da Nang Department of Health to assess the quality of her products. She was asked to list the substances in her products that needed examination, but she had little formal knowledge about chemicals. She was lost and decided to cancel the certification process.

She continued to use the products in her own house, however, and after two years she hadn't seen any harmful effects on her family. She decided to introduce the formula to people in her community to help them save some money- the later became used throughout the province.

In June 2015, with the support of Da Nang Department of Science and Technology, her products were verified by CQM. The results showed that Hong's products were absolutely safe.

Free from chemicals: Organic cleaning and floor-sweeping products are completed after 75 days.— Photos

Hong's cleaning agents are not only safe but also cheap. It costs only VND10,000 (50US cents) per litre, which means everyone can afford to buy them.

Hong plans to set up workshops around the country in provinces so that domestic waste from the community can be turned into cleaning products.

"My project can help increase the incomes of the poor because they can earn some money from their own waste," she said, also excited about the environmental benefits, "We won't see waste everywhere!"

However, to do this, Hong has obstacles to overcome. Most obviously is the issue of financing the project. Her family is not rich, so saving up enough money to set up a firm, buy equipment, build infrastructure and find business locations worries her.

Despite all the difficulties, she is determined.

"I will try my best to complete the plan because, for me, the project is dedicated to my sister who sacrificed her youth to raise me; to the women who suckled me; to the generations who died for a peaceful and independent life today; and finally, it is for the health of the community," Hong said.

"Apart from improving the already-available products, I will introduce new products to the community such as body wash, shampoo and hand soap," she said, talking about the future.

Her products got national attention in the capital city at the Vietnamese Women's Museum where they were on display at the Women and Innovation exhibit. — VNS

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