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Finding a sustainable – and creative – use for trash

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One of the comics being distributed in Battambang as part of the Don’t Waste Your Waste campaign. Photo supplied

Finding a sustainable – and creative – use for trash

A pilot waste-management program in Battambang is resulting in cleaner streets, money in the pockets of the city’s poorest and cheap building materials.

Using an idea borrowed from a successful 2003 non-profit initiative in Guatemala, participants in the Don’t Waste Your Waste campaign gather discarded plastic bottles and fill them with other rubbish – cigarette butts, plastic bags, styrofoam, tin foil. The stuffed bottles are then used as bricks with one small construction project already completed.

The two NGOs behind the project which started in February, the EXO Foundation and the Cambodian Education and Waste Management Organisation, hope the project will accustom the community to a cleaner environment while also providing a productive and sustainable use for the trash.

There is an economic incentive too: people who help collect the waste get paid. According to Christine Jacquemin, director of the EXO Foundation, empty bottles normally sell for 30 riel, while full bottles earn collectors 150 to 200 riel.
“It’s [a] much better [return] for the waste pickers,” Jacquemin said.

Along with the construction initiative, the project also includes a Khmer-language comic strip about waste management that has been distributed among the community. The comic, designed by illustrators from the Phar Ponleu Selpak arts school, tells the story of a boy and girl who discover garbage littered around their formerly pristine village and decide to clean it up.

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