Commune turns trash into treasure
In the 90s, Dien Thap in Nghe An Province's Dien Chau District was a mainly agricultural commune with a dense population. Each household had only a bit of land to grow crops. Life there was made even harder because of frequent floods.
The dire situation forced residents to find a new way of making a living. They began traveling throughout the province, collecting recyclable materials. Some of the scraps are used for bronze casting, a traditional craft in the area.
"At that time, this whole commune earned their incomes by collecting scraps. We bought everything that people threw away, from aluminum to a broken plastic sandals. We traveled from dawn to dusk, but at first only earned about VND5000-10,000 (USD0.24-0.48) a day. Because we could not afford school tuition, my children had to alternatively go to school then miss the next day to collect scraps with us. Even when Tet was nearing we couldn't buy new clothes for them." said Ho Xuan Bac, a local resident.
Still, the people were not resigned to being poor, they continued to seek a better life in the only way available to them.
Eventually their sources in and around the commune dried up. Then they chose to travel to Laos, where, they had heard, the price for the scraps they sought was cheap.
At first business was low-scale, consisting of rubbish form houses. Passenger buses were used to bring the material back to Vietnam. But it wasn't long before they had to start using private trucks to transport large loads from yards, and Dien Thap residents began to be known as the 'scrap tycoons' in Laos.
The scraps were sorted and recycled in Vietnam, then sold back to purchasers in Laos. The business was quite profitable in the end, as a result of the enterprising people of the commune.
Since around 2000, dozens of large homes can be seen with cars parked in front. For the people who have lived there since the tougher times, they have seen a commune reborn.
Villas built on scraps
A commune revitalised
Recycled goods sold back to Laos