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Giving recyclable trash new lease of life

After a hard day at work, Luu Chung Nghia from Vong La commune on the outskirts of Hanoi returns home to his favourite hobby: creating toys from trash.

In his skillful hands, used cans, cardboard, plastic bags and foam boxes are turned into colourful toy insects and animals that children love.

Making toys has been a hobby since childhood for this 29-year-old, but the idea of using recyclable materials first came to him after a visit to the northern province of Lang Son three years ago when he saw an old man making a funny looking toy from used plastic bottles.

As someone concerned about protecting the environment and the excessive disposal of plastic items, Nghia started to learn how to recycle things on the internet.

So he started off by creating simple toy animals like mice, pigs and bees out of plastic bottles or cans.

“You don't see many people in Vietnam making toys from plastic bottles. I've asked my relatives and friends to stop throwing recyclable rubbish away and instead give it to me,” he said.

Nghia also collects plastic rubbish and rubber tyres from the roadside on the way home after work, which he cleans thoroughly to use for his creations.

The toy maker said his first items were made mainly from soft drink cans. After that, he gradually started using a variety of plastic bottles as well, most of which were daily items like shampoo or cosmetic bottles.

Nghia has created hundreds of toys made from waste material, each of which takes him around 15 to 30 minutes to finish. His more sophisticated designs might take up to weeks, like a locust made from used cans or a crocodile made from cardboard. The inspirations for his creations are mainly taken from cinemas and his experiences.

“I start making toys after dinner. New ideas come to me every day so sometimes I create something beyond the imagination.

My neighbours' children like my toys so I've started showing them how to make them by themselves using recyclable materials, I want to teach them about environmental protection and how to create their favourite toys,” Nghia said.

He has also made jewellery and home décor items from waste materials.

“I recently created a set of jewellery from used cans, plastic bottles and other materials which I was so happy with I gave it to a friend as a gift,” he adds.

Besides giving gifts to friends, he has also donated his toys to several charity programmes dedicated to disadvantaged children. His toys might be small and simple but they contain a meaningful message about environmental protection.

“Through my creations, I hope to contribute to raising people’s awareness and appeal to them to reduce their use of single-use plastics.”

However, Nghia has no plans to promote his creations for commercial purposes. His main job is running his own business, and the toys are just as a way for him to relax.

“I make toys to satisfy my passion, not for money. However, if someone asks for one, I use my free time to make it for them for free.

“Some companies have asked me to collaborate with them on projects but I’m still thinking about it because if my toys are mass produced, my initial purpose will be misunderstood,” he adds.

The toy maker has recently launched his own YouTube channel – Nghia Odin – giving instructions on how to make simple toys from discarded materials, which he hopes will teach children about environmental protection.

More of Nghia’s products can be seen on Facebook page Nghia Odin Crafts.