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One man’s trash is another man’s treasure…

One man’s trash is another man’s treasure… 

Although we aim to be a plastic-free company and have taken big steps towards this goal, we still find ourselves producing plastic waste on a daily basis. This is why, when Patihoub, a Luang Prabang-based company, which converts low-value plastic waste into durable, versatile and, premium products, launched, we decided to partner with them and give our plastic waste a second life. After all, one man's trash can be another man's treasure...

It’s a little after 11.00 a.m., the Patihoub truck pulls into the driveway of Ock Pop Tok’s Living Crafts Centre, on the banks of the Mekong. Friday is collection day. Every Friday, or every two Fridays, the Patihoub team comes to collect the plastic put aside by our team during the week. As the saying goes; one man’s trash can be another man’s treasure…

With a café, a villa and many (many) other activities, we are bound to produce plastic waste in spite of our efforts to reduce our consumption of single-use plastic (until plastic alternatives become more mainstream…).

We are working with our team to raise awareness and educate the local community about the issue of plastic pollution as a global problem. We are committed to help Ock Pop Tok team members find solutions and reduce plastic used at work and in their personal lives.

We stopped using plastic straws in our restaurant years ago and replaced them with locally sourced bamboo straws. And replaced paper napkins by 100% cotton napkins made in Laos!

We also stopped selling plastic water bottles. We give all of our guests free purified drinking water. We also set up water refill stations at our shop in town and café on the banks of the Mekong so that people can refill their reusable water bottles for free.

No plastic bags for our customers in both our shops either. Customers shopping in our brick-and-mortar shops in Luang Prabang will leave with their purchase in either a handmade saa paper bag or a reusable tote bag.

opt laos blog patihoub factory - trash

And yet, we still find ourselves with plastic waste every week. That’s where Patihoub comes into play. This Luang Prabang-based company, which converts low-value plastic waste into durable, versatile and premium products, was launched in 2021 by two women, a Lao – ViengVilay Phimmasone, Co-Founder and Director – and a Vietnamese – Thuy Phuong Nguyen, Co-Founder and Technical Advisor.

ViengVilay Phimmasone, Co-Founder and Director of PatiHoub Plastic Recycling Factory, explains that PatiHoub is Laos’ first value-chain focused recycling business and social franchise of ReForm Plastic, an established business model for recycling started in Da Nang, Vietnam.

ReForm Plastic solves the plastic waste crisis through a circular and inclusive approach with the informal sector that converts low-value plastic waste into durable, versatile and premium products through a unique, low-carbon process that creates positive social impacts by increasing income for waste collectors.

opt laos blog patihoub shredding - trash

So, how does it work? Several steps are involved in the process: collect, sort, shred and, press. It all starts with the collection. “First, we collect plastic waste from various sources including hotels & guesthouses, businesses, schools, households, and communities,” explains ViengVilay Phimmasone. “Next, the collected plastic is sorted to remove any contaminants. Then, the sorted plastic is shredded into smaller pieces and pressed into boards.”

Since their launch, the PatiHoub team has been working relentlessly to put into place a system for the collection. “We’ve established efficient collection systems tailored to both communities and businesses. This includes scheduled pickups, drop-off points, and partnerships with local establishments for convenient plastic disposal,” highlights ViengVilay Phimmasone.

When asked if all types of plastics could be recycled, ViengVilay Phimmasone said that at PatiHoub, “we pride ourselves on our comprehensive recycling efforts. We have the capability to collect 100% of plastic waste, regardless of the type or form or any other variant. We ensure that no plastic goes to waste. Our inclusive approach to plastic recycling allows us to maximize the environmental benefits and contribute to a cleaner, greener future.”

ViengVilay Phimmasone shares that the “the response from both individuals and businesses has been overwhelmingly positive. There is a growing awareness about the importance of recycling and sustainability, leading to increased participation in our recycling programs.”

opt laos blog patihoub boards - trash

Where does the name Patihoub come from?
Pa-ti means “reform” or “revolution”, and Houb means “design” or “image” in Lao language, which together means to redesign plastic waste into valuable products and revolutionize the plastics value-chain.

And yet, this did not come without challenges… The biggest challenge is that waste sorting is not a common practice yet. “Waste is generally collected together and disposed of in the landfill. So making sure that waste is separated properly is difficult. Additionally, we can only process plastic waste that doesn’t have liquid and food left on them. To address this issue, we provide training – and refresher training – if needed to all business and community partners,” adds ViengVilay Phimmasone.

Going forward, the PatiHoub team would like to extend their network and collect plastic from more businesses, schools and, communities but also develop more unique products suitable for the Lao market.

They already make a wide range of products from furniture to outdoor facilities and homes. As well as office and shop equipment such as shelving, bar counter, desk and, cabinet, etc.

These boards come with a lot of advantages, among which:

  • Strong and durable. They can mix different kinds of plastic and produce boards of various degrees of strength, hardness, and flexibility ;
  • ⁠Waterproof (weatherproof). Great for outdoor use, can handle rain and humidity ;
  • Anti-mold ;
  • Easy to clean ;
  • ⁠Non-toxic.

If you’re a business in Luang Prabang, contact [email protected] for more information, and join us in reducing plastic waste (and pollution) in Luang Prabang.

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