Peloton Against Plastic, a Hanoi-Bangkok bike ride raising awareness on single use plastic, have dashed through Vietnam in 15 days. On Saturday (June 30th), along with his team, Paul Helier, leader of the marathon and founder of Fairfoodforager, a directory for sustainable F&B businesses, visited The Organik House to interview Saigon’s environmental leaders, especially those in the food industry, about the local plastic habit and solutions. Helier, a professional environmentalist, founded Fairfoodforager after experiencing frustration in finding eco-friendly coffee shops in his travels. Currently available on Apple and Android, the app lists restaurants, coffee shops, and groceries according to their sustainable practices such as “Reduced Plastic”, “Local Produce”, or “Homemade”.
Having been up and running for only two years, the app is still developing new features such as user’s suggestions of eco-friendly establishments. “We are looking for help from volunteers to let us know where the suitable establishments are.” In fact, this bike ride has also been an opportunity for Helier to put Vietnam on the map of sustainable food. “In the future, we plan on having Vietnamese version of the app,” he revealed. While working on the nascent Fairfoodforager, Helier actually lived in Vietnam. During his travel to the south of Thailand, he bought a bike and cycled back to the north of Phu Quoc. From there, he got the idea for Peloton Against Plastic.
“From this, I’ve seen that the rally against plastic here is very promising. In the west, we invented plastic and popularised it for a long time, while only seriously looking at stopping for a few years, so of course it takes time for developing countries to catch up. But I’ve seen some amazing work by people here.”
Hosting the event were Organik House’s Ale Sorti and Quyen Tran, spearheading sustainable practices in the Saigon’s food industry. The vegan cafe and restaurant uses 100% reusable cups, straws, and sells biodegradable single-use tableware. Among the audience were other restaurant owners (Vicolo1 Pizza), chefs, environment researchers from Nguyen Tat Thanh University, students and even some who want to join the ride onward. They discussed raising plastic recycling, the market value of plastic to reduce wasteful use, challenging dependency on single use straws or cups, and establishing foundational practices for startups.
After one university student shared her frustration regarding Vietnamese apathy toward plastic waste, Quyen Tran advised: “Even if we only manage to change 10% of Vietnamese population’s attitude toward plastic use, that’s 9 million people. Even though we’re starting small, we should be hopeful about the tidal wave of future change.”