|Carried away: Le Thien An is pictured at his garbage treatment plant, ViWaSeen Phuong Huong JSC. He has plans to expand the company in the future. — Photo Courtesy of Le Thien An
by An Vu
For most people, rubbish represents the end of all activities of human life. For Le Thien An, it is the beginning of everything.
It is difficult to believe that the 53-year-old once was a wealthy person of the Central Highlands region, the home of black pepper and coffee. Out of the blue, he sold all his property and land one day, and moved to a dumping ground with his wife.
"They told me I was out of my mind and that nothing good would come out of giving up on everything just to live with rubbish. But it was my greatest source of inspiration. Is it wrong to pursue it?" An said, with his eyes reflecting his strong will.
His odd love for rubbish dates back to the period when he was a road worker in Gia Lai's northern Chu Se District. While working there, An realised that workers' lives and health were badly affected by the smell from dumping grounds nearby.
"The reason I decided to open a rubbish treatment factory was that I learned rubbish is an unlimited resource. It has a significant social impact in that it helps my business and also provides me and my workers jobs," An said.
To study various methods of waste collection and processing, An spent most of his money and went to 20 different waste treatment plants in the provinces of Binh Duong, Binh Phuoc and Ha Tinh in 2007.
Three years later, the construction of a VND15.7-billion (US$698,000) waste treatment plant began with the money An borrowed from his cousins and received from the sale of his home and land.
After five years of construction, the plant is finally ready.
An and his wife Kpa Thi Thu Phuong have proudly named the plant ViWaSeen Phuong Huong Environment Development and Investment Joint Stock Company.
As with any other start-up, the opening and operation of a plant brought countless difficulties, but An has managed to overcome them all. "I guess I am a fearless man. People can move mountains if they really want to. In those very first days, the greatest obstacles were always about capital as many banks rejected my request when they learned I wanted to invest in rubbish," An said.
"This plant is equipped with advanced technology, ensuring good standards of discharge, as well as following national technology regulations on environment. Its can process 40 to 50 tonnes of trash per day. So every month we can get 20 tonnes of compost, bringing us a profit of 20 to 25 per cent.
"At the moment, the plant has nine bunkers. In the meantime, we have also finished constructing an incinerator in La Blang and La Hlop hamlets."
At present, his plant employs 16 people, and the number is expected to rise to 50. Besides training his workers, An also educates them about keeping the environment clean and green.
Rlan Phin, 36, a worker living in Queng Thoa Village, Dun Hamlet, said the plant was truly his salvation. "I was sent to work at the plant. Now life is not tough for me anymore. The company also supports me with food and other stuff. I know how harmful rubbish is to the environment and about ways to dispose of it. I will tell my wife and the people in my village to practise sanitation and protect the environment," Phin said.
Pham Duy Du, director of the Gia Lai Department of Resource and Environment, said An's plant was the first socialised model in waste treatment in Gia Lai.
"Rubbish is long known to be a hard field to venture into, as it requires huge investment and brings low profit. An is a farmer, but he dared to put a large amount of money into this challenging domain.
"The benefits the plant has brought are impressive, as it has been able to dispose five per cent of the waste, and has created a suitable fertiliser source for local crops, solving environmental pollution," Du added.
An's first move seems to have brought a good harvest, proving that he sowed the right seed. Yet, the road ahead is long and more things need to be done.
"I love the idea of expanding this model to all provinces of the Central Highlands, but just I and my financial situation cannot make the dream come true. It is a goal for which the community and authorities need to join hands. If we can start with little things, we will harvest the fruit of our labour," An said. — VNS