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A second life for plastic waste

Nestor Catalan, a Spanish man who has been living in Vietnam for many years, is determined to spend the rest of his life working for what he deems meaningful projects. PLASTICPeople is one of them.

Nestor Catalan at one of his workshops on PLASTICPeople.

After 15 years working in the advertising industry, Nestor Catlan decided to travel over the world in December 2014. It seemed a little bit weird, but it was true that during his trip, he realized that he wanted to focus on social and environment projects.

In 2015, Mr. Catalan came to Vietnam for the first time. He soon found out how deeply he had been attached to the country. Mr. Catalan continued travelling to other Asian countries, such as Cambodia, Myanmar and

Indonesia before returning to Europe. In 2016, he chose Vietnam as his second home.

The year of 2016 might be special for Mr. Catalan as he started to undertake a project with Huy Do whom he met during his first trip to Vietnam in 2015. This project—which aimed to provide wooden materials and tools so that customers could piece them together to have useful household utensils by themselves—was the first meaningful endeavor of the Spaniard.

After the first, he has carried out some other projects, which focused mostly on eco-friendly products. Now, PLASTICPeople is his latest one.

Nestor Catalan started PLASTICPeople in 2019. The project is about transforming plastic waste into useful, affordable and valuable products which can be used to make furniture and other items. Talking about the inspiration to initiate PLASTICPeople, Mr. Catalan says he wants to do something which works actually. “I shouldn’t only complain and do nothing about what is going on with plastic waste in our planet,” he says. “It’s time we took action.”  PLASTICPeople is his action.

“When I met my partner Nano, and after sharing a few months working together, we both felt that it was the right time to step forward and use 100% of our time on this project to set up a company. It’s time to scale up our solution. The more we grow up as a business, the more plastic waste we transform and save it from ending up in a landfill, ocean or just be burned.”

In this regard, knowledge is essential. That is the reason why before officially operating the project, Nestor Catalan spent more than one year researching, understanding the properties of different types of polymers that he and his partners find in common daily waste and finding the best way to transform plastic waste into something useful and valuable.

Nestor Catalan shows a device used to sort out kinds of plastics. – Photos: Vuong Anh

Of course, it is never easy to run a business. PLASTICPeople is no exception. Fortunately, Mr. Catalan and his team have overcome the initial difficulties thanks to the support of the people who trusted and helped them in their first steps. “Everything is now moving forward and we have a sense of responsibility for the support that we get from the community.”

Aside from producing eco-friendly products from plastic waste, Nestor Catalan and his team also host workshops on trash recycling and related activities. Talking about this, he says education is a key to raising the awareness of environmental protection. These practical workshops and activities allow people to understand what everyone can do to minimize and save plastic waste. “It’s not only about cleaning what we make dirty. It’s also about minimizing our impact. But that needs to start from ourselves; from our habits at home and in our jobs and business.”

Explaining what he is doing, especially with PLASTICPeople, Mr. Catalan says he feels his project may exert an impact on the environment and improve society as well. “Everyone is part of this change and I love that.”

“I would love to see that eventually in the future our business is over because there is no more plastic waste to process,” say Mr. Catalan. “When my jobs are no longer a challenge, I will find another to face. I will stay always loyal to my values and principles as far as I can afford it.”  SGT


How do you feel about Vietnam after years of living in the country?

I really feel it like home. The only problem is time flies! You are always enjoying good weather (I even love the wet season) and there is almost everything I like: beaches, mountains, jungles, nature, culture, good food, and cosmopolitan cities. I feel missing my family, friends and the snow sometimes. Especially in this Covid-19 time, I have no chance to visit them for almost two years.

What are your hobbies?

I love running, trekking, biking, camping… almost all outdoor sport activities. Actually it was in Vietnam that I did my first full trail marathon (VietnamTrailMarathon) and now I got addicted!

I also like to spend some time doing geeky-techie stuff and lately designing new prototypes for our plastic materials.

Your favorite foods and destinations in Vietnam?

It’s difficult to say. I love to have a “soup” for breakfast. This is a new habit that I cultivate in Vietnam and I miss it when I am away. I think that Phở bò or Bún bò Huế are my top ones.

I like the mountains in Dalat or in the North of Vietnam, but I am happy to go anywhere to be away from the heavy traffic of Saigon. The mountains and hills of Nui Dien and Dau Giay are my playground on the weekend. I also love the beaches. Mui Ne, Cam Ranh or Phu Quoc are my common destinations when I am looking for a relaxing time. I’m looking for new locations to discover.

Vuong Anh (VNS)

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