Hotels Attack City’s Trash Problem

Jonathan Cox / Khmer Times No Comments Share:
Garbage bags from a restaurant, some open and spilling their contents, are left piled on the side of a street in the capital’s Chamkarmon district. KT Photo: Fabien Mouret

PHNOM PENH (Khmer Times) – Hoteliers are banding to together to attack a problem plagues Phnom Penh: trash in public places.
With garbage cans few and far between, it is common for residents or businesses to leave un-bagged trash by the curbside. There it can fester for days before being picked up by the city’s sole garbage disposal company. 

The Green City Committee, a new coalition of hotel owners and NGOs have decided this is bad, not just for the environment, but also for business. 

“The streets are dirty, and tourists don’t want to see trash,” said Luu Meng, president of the Cambodia Hotel Association and head of the new committee. 

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To achieve their goal, Mr. Meng and fellow committee members plan to lead monthly clean-up drives that focus on different neighborhoods.

Leading by Example

In the first such clean up, volunteers recruited from hotel workers and through Facebook will meet Aug. 30 to pick up trash. The city neighborhood has not yet been selected. Carrol Sahaidak-Beaver, director of the Cambodia Hotel Association, said it would likely be one that is both popular with tourists and has a trash problem. Riverside is a notorious example.

The Green City Committee, however, doesn’t just want to temporarily spruce up some streets. They believe that when residents see volunteers cleaning up their neighborhoods, they will adopt better trash habits.  “We need to lead by example,” Ms. Sahaidak-Beaver added. “It’s about building awareness.”

Kouch Sokly, president of the Junior Chamber International, said: “People feel ashamed if they see you picking up trash in front of their house. Next time, they will pick up the trash themselves.”

Jonathan Salmon, sustainability manager at NagaWorld, is confident that City Hall will support a cleanup project, as long as it does not evolve into political protest. 

“The government just wants groups to stay focused on the cleanup and not promote anything political,” he said.

Trash, But No Cans

Much of the 1,500 tons of trash produced daily by Phnom Penh is not properly bagged. Some is not picked up. Garbage disposal company Cintri holds an exclusive contract to collect waste in the city. But garbage collection can be slow. Bags of trash sometimes are left sitting in front of businesses and homes for more than 24 hours.

“We don’t have enough trash bins,” said Mr. Sokly. “And we don’t have regular trash collection.”

Poor city trash pickup and a lack of trash cans are problems. But Mr. Meng and his team believe that reform should start by changing the way regular people dispose of trash – not with trying to restructure Cintri.
In the past, individual hotels have led clean-up campaigns. But this is the first time that a group of hotels has united to push for a cleaner Cambodia.

 “As individuals, we have no voice,” said Ms. Sahaidak-Beaver. “But as a group, as an industry, we can have an impact.”

Tourism is a major employer in Cambodia and a major pillar of the economy.

The Aug. 30 clean-up will be followed by other monthly clean-up programs in Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, Sihanoukville and other cities. Organizers hope that once teams of volunteers show the way, residents will toss trash in the garbage can – not in the gutter.

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