Innovation That Matters

| Photo source Daniel Bernard on Unsplash

An inclusive approach to upcycling low-value plastics into new products


A Vietnamese company is creating new opportunities for plastic recycling and waste workers

Spotted: Every year, between 8 to 10 million metric tonnes of plastic end up in our oceans. Countries in Southeast Asia are among the major offenders – many lack the infrastructure to collect and process plastic waste. Vietnam, which only recycles around a third of its plastic waste, is one of these. But a startup called ReForm Plastic is aiming to change this, as well as improve the lives of Vietnamese waste pickers – who are largely women. 

ReForm focuses on repurposing different types of waste plastic into moulded plastic products such as: construction tiles, tables, chairs, waste bins, playground equipment, and holds for rock-climbing walls. However, the startup is also repurposing the waste system by transforming existing collection centres into small production facilities. 

The small recycling centres are equipped with efficient low-cost machinery, collection and processing equipment. Each centre is partially locally owned and managed, but generates products that are centrally purchased and distributed by ReForm.  

ReForm already has four factories in operation in Vietnam – and is building six more in partnership with organisations in Thailand, Bangladesh, Laos, Mozambique, and the Philippines. In addition to providing work for thousands of workers, the circular system also formalises a large proportion of the informal waste sector. 

One way that innovators are tackling plastic waste is by collecting it and turning it into new products – reducing waste as well as the use of fossil fuels to make virgin plastics. Springwise has spotted a startup making backpacks from recycled plastic and a refillable and decomposable replacement for plastic pill bottles.

Written By: Lisa Magloff



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