Turning waste into compost: success at long last!

Sales of our compost explode: 30 tons in 2008, 60 in 2009, and already 85 for 2010! Our production must be increased.

Thân, director of the program:

"In the bus the other day I had a chat with a farmer. He has a rubbertree plantation. His neighbor has tried our compost and the result is excellent. So he wants some too. Cow dung is fine but it is more expensive."

This is a success, after 8 long years of struggle to make this work. At first it was the authorities who asked our help for a waste dump site. We said we would rather look into recycling. Vietnam is modernising fast, and so the volume of waste is increasing fast too, with thousands of illegal waste dumping, toxic gasses etc.

After a few months we had our first success: we won a contest by the World Bank, about innovations on environmental issues. Technically the project was sound, it remained to be made sustainable from a financial point of view. We are truly obsessed by the costs. For the model to be sustainable and replicable, the investment must be low and the costs must be covered by sales.

Paradox: it is more difficult in rural areas! Our agriculture teams train the farmers to sort their waste and produce their own compost. While urban is organic up to 80%, in a rural district it is less than 50%. Furthermore, for ten years we have organized the pupils of all primary schools to collect the plastic waste for recycling and every year they collect about 100 tons, a substantial income for the schools.

Conclusion: at the waste recycling plant we have a low proportion of organic waste and good quality plastics (the value is 10 times less). A mission of experts visited the program 2 years ago, and concluded: burry the whole thing, the sorting is too difficult and this waste is useless! To paraphrase Mark Twain: "We did not know it was impossible, so we did it anyway!"

At least 10 times we wanted to cancel the project, but today it seems we have succeeded. We produce good compost at an affordable price for the farmers:: 9 cents €/kilo. Thanks to the many trainings of our agronomists, the sales of compost multiply.

Bernard KERVYN and NGUYEN VAN Thân and his team,
the 17/9/10.