Start-ups benefit environment and poor women

May 10, 2020 - 08:22

For Nguyễn Thị Xuân Hằng, a plastic straw was the one that broke the camel's back.

Nguyễn Thị Xuân Hằng introduces paper straws at an exhibition in Đà Nẵng. She built up the first ever start-up project in producing recycled product in reducing plastic waste in the central region. VNS Photo Xuân Hằng

by Công Thành

For Nguyễn Thị Xuân Hằng, a plastic straw was the one that broke the camel's back.

The 32-year-old started Green Sprout, also known as Green SP company, to produce paper straws in a bid to protect the environment to replace their plastic peers which have long filled dust bins and dumps.

The firm in Đà Nẵng City is the first of its kind in central Viet Nam.

Hằng opened a production line to try and reduce the use of single-use plastic straws, harmful waste that can kill ocean creatures.

She imported the materials for the straws from Europe, buying pulp that was qualified as food industrial material, for mass use in the tourism hubs of Đà Nẵng and Hội An.

“I was told by a foreign partner they needed local providers of paperwares and environment-friendly product. I think it’s a chance for me to begin a start-up project that could help the city ease plastic waste pollution while boosting the recycling industry,” Hằng said.

“I started the project in early 2019 by investing US$40,000 in a production line. It was tough to persuade cafés and hotels to change from cheap plastic straws to degradable paper,” she recalled.

Hằng said local people initially were sceptical of the safety of paper straws, but they were soon won over by the product's environmentally-friendly nature.

Paper straws can be used to replace single-use straws at cafes and restaurants in Đà Nẵng. VNS Photo Xuân Hằng 

She said hotels and resorts were trailblazers in promoting the use of environment-friendly wares instead of single-use plastic.

In the high season of tourism between April and July last year, the factory supplied 2 million paper straws a month for cafes and resorts in Đà Nẵng, Huế, Hội An and HCM City.

The made-in-Đà Nẵng paper straws with diverse designs have been distributed by 60 agents and are welcomed by young people at cafes, Hằng said.

Hằng said paper straws, which can be recycled in two months, cost twice as much as plastic alternatives.

The Green SP director said she hopes to produce food boxes and cups from recycled material and provide jobs for poor women and underprivileged people.

HERBAL HEALING: Trần Tú Quyên (first right) gives old people with joint ache a herbal foot bath. The therapy has helped thousands of users to ease pain and stress. Photo courtesy of Tú Quyên

Herb remedy

Trần Tú Quyên, 49, got into the start-up game by using herbal therapy to ease her own mental stress and physical pain.

Quyên created the herb remedy formula to treat herself after a long illness and the mixture of traditional garden herbs helped her launch her start-up in late 2017.

She used a mixture of citronella roots, pomelo peels, mint, rose, leaves of perilla and wild betel boiled in water for a foot bath in a timber basin, she said.

“Herb soaking helped me ease the pain and I wanted to share that remedy to the other sick people. I bought herbs from the market to build a formula with different ratios for treating arthritis, gout pain, hypertension and postnatal mothers,” she explained.

She said the herbs were cleaned and dried at a factory for pure quality, and small packages were then delivered to users.

In early 2018, Quyên introduced An Nhiên herb company to start producing on a larger scale. She set up links with farms nationwide to collect enough natural herbs for 25 herbal products.

Quyên has provided 100kg of finished products for at least 7,000 people who suffer from gout, vestibular disorder, cancer and pregnant women, as well as some drug users in rehabilitation.

It costs around $36 for a 30-day foot and body bathing herbal remedy set.

“It’s not a magic cure, but people can raise their spirit by easing the pain. Most users are old people and the impoverished,” she explained.

“I want to share a psychological solution in dealing with aches at an acceptable low cost for all people. I can bring the therapy to their homes for short treatment as well.”

Herbal foot bath is the traditional therapy in supporting people with tiredness and body aches. Photo courtesy Tú Quyên

Linh Lương, who suffered from postnatal depression, said the herbal therapy eased her stress and fatigue, while foot bathing aided her blood circulation.

Lương said the herbal body bath also helped reduce muscle strains and body aches for mothers after child-bearing.   

Quyên said the company, in co-operation with the city’s women’s unions, planned to expand its distribution network to create more jobs and income for underprivileged women, single mothers and people with disabilities. VNS