HCM CITY : After noticing that more and more people were throwing away plastic bags, Phạm Thị Kim Hằng decided this year tomake stylish handbags out of discarded plastic bags and fabric.
Hằng’s startup, called Limart – Zero Waste, which she founded last year, focuses on selling environmentally friendly products such as soap, toothbrushes and handbags, as well as bamboo drinking straws.
“During the social distancing period, I read the news and noticed that more people were ordering food delivery, and use of plastics had spiked, so I wanted to help reduce the amount of plastic thrown away,” the 25-year-old tells Việt Nam News.
“From our past community events, I also knew about some organisations that help people with disabilities find jobs. Since the disabled mostly make souvenirs for a living, they are struggling because there are few tourists now. I wanted to come up with a product to reduce plastic waste and provide an income for disabled workers.”
To make the handbags, Hằng and her staff gather discarded, non-degradable plastic bags, then wash and dry them. The bags are then cut into small pieces, and strung together to form long strands of plastic. The strands are wrapped around a quill and then woven into colourful sheets on a loom.
Hằng also acquires discarded fabric such as curtains and pillowcases, and some hotels even give them to her for free.
All of the materials are sewn together to make bright, colourful bags that are sturdy to use, fashionable, and environmentally friendly.
Hằng also researches trendy handbag designs to make the bags more appealing.
The workers have been making the handbags for more than two months, and so far have made around 50 handbags. They have been well received by the public and perceived as fashionable and meaningful, according to Hằng.
Each handbag can take up to three days to make, and they sell for VNĐ220,000(US$9.5) or VNĐ375,000 ($16).
Plastic bags should be reused and not discarded immediately, Hằng says.
“We are giving plastic bags another life cycle, as opposed to being thrown in a garbage dump, buried or burned, which is bad for air pollution. They can be returned as a handbag that can be used for a long time.”
Limart – Zero Waste also gathers used items from visitors in exchange for gifts such as drinking straws made of bamboo.
Hằng says the business is not focusing too much on commercialising the handbags, and hope that people can find their own ways to reuse plastic bags and old fabric.
She is also thinking of making small looms so that families can reuse their own plastic bags to make items such as pencil cases or handbags.