Earth Prize 2022 of Switzerland awarded the first prize to a group of Vietnamese students with the idea of biodegradable tampons from dragon fruit peels.
A group of students including Tran Quynh Anh (15 years old, HCMC), Bui Tu Uyen (17 years old, Hanoi) and Luong Anh Khanh Huyen (16 years old, Hanoi) won the top prize of the Earth Prize 2022 contest, information from the Embassy of Switzerland in Vietnam. 3 girls have passed 650 competing teams from 516 schools from 114 countries and territories.
“We were very surprised to be named the winning group and also very happy because after 6 months of efforts, it paid off,” said member Bui Tu Uyen (Hanoi Amsterdam High School for Gifted Students and Vietnam National Academy of Music). said.
Tu Uyen said, in September 2021, the calls for the community and society to participate in “rescuing agricultural products” with cheap dragon fruit selling points spread throughout big cities like Hanoi, making GenZ girls attention. Realizing that this agricultural product can be used as a biodegradable material, Quynh Anh (Dorothy), Uyen and Huyen have thought of a project to produce environmentally friendly sanitary napkins – something that has almost never appeared in Vietnam. Vietnam market. This idea seeded the project that just received their $100,000 bounty.
The group first thought about making products like baby diapers, then decided to make something familiar to women. This is not a new direction, but the group’s approach is completely different, which is to use dragon fruit – a fruit widely grown and sold in Vietnam.
“We have learned about many types of materials such as bamboo and banana peel, but we are surprised that there has not been much attention and exploitation about the physico-chemical properties of dragon fruit,” Uyen said, adding that this is a potential raw material. The ability to help solve the problem of agricultural products and make the most of agricultural waste and leftovers.
As the chief technical officer, Uyen said that the team makes use of the fiber and pectin present in the dragon fruit skin to create products with good absorbency. Specifically, fiber used in the main layer is absorbent and pectin is used as a biofilm to cover the outer layer to prevent spills. The group of female students together analyzed the physico-chemical properties of dragon fruit, extracted fiber for testing as well as making crude samples.
Tu Uyen said that researching and learning about how to process materials to create products was the hardest part. “Since it’s a new material, it will take longer to process,” she said.
During the process of developing the idea, all three female students had never met face-to-face due to Covid-19, geographical location and study schedule. The team stays in touch via social media and works online whenever discussion is needed. Before that, the girls met at an extra class and discovered they shared a passion for environmental issues. Member Tran Quynh Anh (a student of Ho Chi Minh City International School) said they named the group “Adorbsies”, which means cute things.
Quynh Anh explained, when it comes to environmental protection, people often think of great inventions or things that everyone knows but no one does is plant a lot of trees. “We wanted to show that cute baby products can also change the way people see problems,” she said.
Member Luong Anh Khanh Huyen (studied at Concordia International School Hanoi) said that there are not many companies that provide environmentally friendly sanitary napkin products, especially the recycled line. Therefore, the group does not have much information about the market, having difficulty in assessing the product’s consumption potential and influence.
However, they plan to use the prize money to test-produce the eco-friendly tampon. The group also wants to use money to implement a project to encourage women and girls of ethnic minorities to use tampons and body hygiene to avoid gynecological diseases. “We want to try ourselves and do a meaningful community project to make good use of the money we are fortunate to receive,” Huyen said.
This is the first year that the award has been organized by the Earth Foundation – a non-profit organization based in Geneva, Switzerland, to showcase the ideas and projects with the most potential to solve environmental problems. The competition is open to students from 13 to 19 years old globally with a total prize value of 200,000 USD. The first prize of 100,000 USD will be awarded to the team with the most potential project. Three runner-up teams will receive $25,000 and the remaining $25,000 will be awarded to a mentor and an educator.
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