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Dr. Plastic: Transforming Plastic Waste into New Possibilities

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Plastic waste pollution is considered one of the major threats to the environment.

It is estimated that by 2050, there may be more plastic waste in the oceans than fish. Vietnam’s beautiful coastlines are also deteriorating due to unprocessed plastic waste strewn across the beaches. Despite the diligence of informal recycling collectors working day and night at an impressive pace, single-use plastic waste still litters the sidewalks around Hanoi. Recent reports also indicate that the Nam Son landfill in Soc Son district, where most of the city’s waste is stored, is running out of space.

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This seems to be a challenging issue without a clear solution. However, many environmental activists in Hanoi are trying to address this problem with creative solutions. Ben Baron and Pham Minh Duc are two such individuals. Both of them joined the fight against plastic waste pollution by establishing Dr. Plastic. Their initiative focuses on practical and innovative solutions that were implemented in 2020 with specific goals: educating people about environmental pollution and recycling, changing community mindset, and increasing the value of plastic waste. They also aim to support those who want to engage in environmental campaigns but don’t know where to start.

Ben and Duc met through a forum on the Precious Plastic website. Duc, born and raised in Hanoi, witnessed the rapid increase in plastic usage in Vietnam in recent years and wanted to contribute to addressing this issue.

While browsing a forum on the Precious Plastic website, Duc noticed the Vietnamese flag icon next to Ben’s name, and that’s where their friendship began. Both have experience working in the environmental sector and have shared knowledge, research results, and eventually collaborated to introduce Dr. Plastic. “”””Vietnam is not the only country in the world facing recycling challenges,”””” Duc shared with Saigoneer, “”””so we look to Europe and other developed countries for practical solutions and their research.””””

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“”””We want to change people’s thinking about plastic waste. That’s why we embarked on this journey,”””” the two shared their goal for Dr. Plastic as they walked through North Cau Xom neighborhood, a public green garden project located on the outskirts of North Cau Xom, east of Hanoi. We visited a small shop with various machines that the duo either purchased or assembled themselves to turn their dream into reality. Their goal is to recycle familiar plastic products that people often dispose of. “”””We see the potential for reuse of these products; they deserve more than the ‘single-use product’ label. The group focuses on types of plastics that recyclers usually do not buy or collect, such as plastic bags, yogurt cups, etc.,”””” Duc shared. “”””We are trying to recycle these types of plastics and give them added value and a new lease on life.””””

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However, Dr. Plastic also faces many challenges, not least of which is the understanding that what they are doing is just a small drop in the ocean. To be able to install machines and finance a real project is not an easy task. Moreover, many people do not want to bother sorting, collecting, and sending waste to Dr. Plastic; disposing of waste has become a much more convenient habit.


The Reality of Recycling Process.

That’s why inspiring the younger generation is one of the missions that Dr. Plastic focuses on. Some groups of students have visited the production workshop to see the new products created from the trash they discard daily. The duo aims to create an educational connection to motivate the younger generation to care more about the issue of plastic pollution.

Through selling products through distribution channels and displaying them at stalls, Ben and Mr. Duc hope to accumulate enough capital to buy larger machines and recycle even more plastic, while also creating a variety of items to sell.


Products created by Dr. Plastic from recycled plastic: multi-purpose hooks (left) and plastic molds for artificial rock climbing (right).


Badges and commendations that can be used in teaching (left) and cup coasters (right).

Dr. Plastic has given us an opportunity to contribute to solving the plastic waste problem in Hanoi and globally. Regardless of whether your contribution to recycling is big or small, what matters most is that it’s a step in the right direction. Certainly, we all need to continue reducing daily waste, while pioneers like Mr. Duc and Ben are making tremendous efforts to handle the waste that is challenging to reduce.

Currently, Mr. Duc and Ben are collecting plastic from some schools and organizations. Individuals can also bring their plastic waste to Viet Climb (40 Alley 76 An Duong), Green Gem store (587 Lac Long Quan, Tay Ho), or directly to the community garden area of Xom Bac Cau (1 Alley 404 Bac Cau, Long Bien). Dr. Plastic collects and recycles the following types of plastic: HDPE (look for “”””2″””” on products like shampoo bottles, laundry detergent, or soap bottles, and yogurt containers), LDPE (including plastic bags and raincoats), and PP (look for “”””5″””” on takeaway food containers, plates, and plastic utensils).


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