If you are a traveler in Southeast Asia, you probably have already noticed the amount of trash everywhere. Plastic is the leader of all concerns, “decorating” beautiful jungles or otherwise pristine beaches. It’s hard to accept and a sad reality to embrace.
It can be very frustrating to go to Cambodian markets (or other markets in any Southeast Asia country), especially if you are an eco-lover person. The amount of plastic bags or containers used and soon thrown away is impressive! In Phnom Penh especially, plastic bags are one of the major causes of monsoon floods, clogging the street drains. For this reason, it is always refreshing to see local people concerned about this, dedicating their lives to them.
Here we share some of the inspiring projects happening in Cambodia regarding ecological or environmental matters!
Typical sight on a Phnom Penh street, the trash keeps pilling it up…
So if plastic bags are one of the main problems, let’s start by them! If you are passing by Phnom Penh, check Funky Junk Recycled, a social enterprise using plastic bags to create different products. Perfectly knitted, they become beautiful accessories and furniture for your home – with a social cause in mind. Focusing on the same kind of gorgeous products made of plastic bags but based in Siem Reap, the Rehash Trash project is also a must visit. You can buy their products next to the Green Gecko Project. This organization owns the project and supports street kids that used to live and beg on the street.
In order to raise awareness, there are some initiatives such as Clean Green Cambodia or the Green Night at Meta House. Held every month in this art space on Sothearos Boulevard in Phnom Penh, it’s an interesting event with talks, eco-movies and a fair trade market with products of different organizations with an ecological mindset. Plastic Free Cambodia provides trainings and workshops related to reducing plastic waste in organizations, schools and companies. They often organize challenges, like going one month without plastic, in order to sparkle the public’s creativity on finding solutions to live with less non-organic waste. Examples of this can be for instance:
- choosing re-usable food containers instead of styrofoam boxes
- using cloth bags to go to the market instead of asking new plastic bags
- drinking your coffee or cocktail without a plastic straw (or buying a bamboo straw, more on that later!)
- drinking from and re-filling a reusable water bottle or thermo instead of buying bottled water
- using re-usable cups instead of plastic ones for your morning coffee
There are some interesting companies in Cambodia that help you in this, such as the Chhlat startup that makes and sells reusable bottles. The biodegradable bags from Cleanbodia are another option. They are made with cassava so even in the nature they will totally dissolve after a few years. With the same concept in mind, EcoSense Cambodia produces different food containers, fully biodegradable. They are able to replace any styrofoam package normally available in the market! Also, if you really like drinking from a straw, why not buying a reusable one made with bamboo from Mekong Quilts (with shops in both Phnom Penh and Siem Reap). They even make bicycles with bamboo, how cool is that?!
And one of our favorites, with the motto “products that change lives”, Friends’n’stuff also has shops in both Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, selling from clothes to stationary, from souvenirs to accessories, from bags and wallets to home products. Everything is made with recyclable materials, such as old newspapers and magazines, car tires, cloth threads or old cutlery. If you buy their products, you support their programs with street children and marginalized families and communities. Moreover, they are one of the most well known and trusted NGOs in Cambodia.
With a totally different approach, doing very interesting projects on construction with a social and environmental mindset, Husk Cambodia in Siem Reap builds houses and schools using plastic bottles filled with trash inside, one of the most simple and effective ways to deal with trash! Exo Foundation is doing the same in Battambang area. Both can be interesting projects to visit in case you are passing in any of these cities.
We hope to give you some inspiration with the eco projects happening in Cambodia. They definitely bring us hope about the change in use and perception of consequences that plastic have over the environment. We all dream of a Southeast Asia without trash in its beautiful nature, don’t we? 🙂