The story behind Vietnam's recycled plastic bottles in America

By Mai Son - Feb 27, 2024 | 11:21 AM GMT+7

TheLEADERInstead of importing scrap, a Vietnamese business is taking advantage of local waste, recycling it right in the country to produce high-quality products and then, to sell to the big market US and Europe.

While traveling in the US, Le Anh sent a photo to his friends in Vietnam and excitedly introduced: "I'm riding a green car and drinking water from a green bottle."

The story behind Vietnam's recycled plastic bottles in America
Recycled plastic bottles, a product of DTR

The "green" car mentioned is a Tesla, the world's leading electric vehicle product, a symbol of a green revolution in the transportation industry.

Compared to the "green" car, the "green" bottle doesn't seem to be anything too special, because it is just a plastic bottle containing mineral water. However, it is a great pride for Le Anh himself and his friends, colleagues and partners in Vietnam.

The reason is that the plastic bottle is produced 100 per cent from recycled materials from Vietnam made by Duytan Recycled Plastic (DTR), where Le Anh holds the position of sustainable development director.

New way in old industry

What is worth paying attention to in a recycled plastic bottle? In Vietnam, it is so familiar with the term recycling because for decades, it has been popular to see thousands of craft villages popping up all over the country, daily collecting everything from bottles, cans and even airplane wrecks for recycling.

"We are a high-tech recycler," Le Anh explained while showing license number 39/DK-VPĐK of the Ministry of Science and Technology, certifying high-tech enterprises for DTR last October.

The company was also honored by the High Quality Vietnamese Goods Business Association as an integration standard high quality Vietnamese Good.

It marks the first time the recycling industry has a unit certified as a high-tech enterprise and honored with high quality products after nearly half a century of formation and development.

In other words, the recycling industry, for many years, until DTR achieved the above achievements, was always be positioned as "not high technology" and "not good quality" industry.

The story behind Vietnam's recycled plastic bottles in America 1
Le Anh, Sustainable development director of DUYTAN Recycled Plastic

One of the reasons is that the recycling industry is always surrounded by lots of big problems coming from the low quality of input scrap.

In fact, there is no waste classification at source, rudimentary and outdated technology due to little investment resources or difficulty in finding output.

Many recycling units lacking of input quality control and modern technology released emissions and wastewater during their operations, causing secondary pollution. That kind of pollution is sometimes so toxic that it can turn an entire recycling village into a "cancer village".

To solve this problem, DTR uses "bottle to bottle" recycling technology from Europe. Each plastic bottle is put into the recycling chain and finally produces plastic beads reaching standard quality to make new plastic bottles and food packaging.

Thanks to that, instead of ending its life cycle in landfills, incinerators or being discharged into the environment, plastic bottles can be recycled, extending the material cycle up to about 50 times.

The technology helps DTR's recycled plastic pellets achieve more than 20 quality certifications such as those from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) or ISO certification.

Instead of importing scrap to recycle and sell to domestic market, DTR uses the waste source right in Vietnam, recycles it and then, exports it to major markets around the world like America and European countries.

In Vietnam, DTR's recycled plastic pellets has been chosen by lots of big fast-moving consumer goods businesses for packaging, namely Unilever, Coca Cola, Nestlé or La Vie.

Related to secondary pollution, the company has invested huge amount of money for a wastewater treatment system with a capacity of up to 900 thousand cubic meters per day.

It brings all wastewater back for re-production and use for decoration landscape like the koi fish pond located right next to the wastewater treatment area.

Exhaust gases are also treated with the most advanced technologies. The plastic scraps that do not meet the standards to be put into the "bottle to bottle" line are used as input for lower quality recycled plastics such as packaging pallets or plastic fabric fibers.

"Our factory operates based on "Three Noes" criteria strategy that are no waste, no emissions and no wastewater," Le Anh emphasized.


Returning to the story of the recycling industry that has not been able to mature for decades, it is clear to see the huge pressures placed on this key industry.

Recycling is difficult and recycling to meet quality standards and not to pollute the environment is even more difficult. "If it weren't Chairman of DTR Tran Duy Hy, it would be hard for anyone to do it," Le Anh affirms.

Hy and DTR's team of leaders and advisors are businessmen, experts, and managers with many years of experience in the plastic industry. Experiencing the turmoil of the market and accumulating experience, they decided to continue making plastic in a different way, ensuring sustainability and meeting the needs of the market.

The story behind Vietnam's recycled plastic bottles in America 2
Modern production lines in Duytan Recycled Plastic

However, only one qualified recycler is not enough to solve the whole problem. There are still billions of plastic bottles and plastic containers that are not recycled and there are still hundreds of types of scrap, from paper and rubber to aluminum, copper, iron, and steel that have not been put into the circulation cycle.

Luckily, there are other bright spot in recycling industry besides DTR like Dong Tien Paper of Hoang Trung Son, VietCycle of Hoang Duc Vuong, Long Long Rubber Recycling of Nguyen Van Thanh and so on.

They also explore, research and apply the new technologies to get effectiveness in recycling scrap.

Le Anh believed that there is still a lot of potential to develop the recycling industry further, coming from the business community which has many years of experience in the manufacturing industry.

These businessman have not only professional experience but also the love for the Vietnam and the desire to contribute to make the country greener, cleaner and more beautiful in the future.

"It would be great if such thoughtful and capable entrepreneurs participated in the recycling industry," Le Anh expects.