Refill Not Landfill campaign aims to turn Cambodia’s mountains of single-use plastic water bottle refuse into molehills
Taking a lead on dealing with plastic waste in Cambodia, Journeys Within Tour Company has joined with more than 40 members of Siem Reap’s hospitality and tourism industries and development sector in the launch of Refill Not Landfill – a campaign aimed at revolutionizing the way water is consumed by tourists in Cambodia and thus spurring a transformation of the kingdoms’ landscape.
At the foot of Angkor Wat — one of the most famous and increasingly popular tourist sites in the world — this informal consortium has come together to replace single-use plastic water bottles with reusable aluminum bottles that are refillable at designated venues across the city. The ultimate goal of Refill Not Landfill is to substantially reduce the amount of plastic waste produced in the Kingdom.
In 2015, 4,775,231 million visitors travelled to Cambodia, staying an average of 6.8 days each. During that time, these visitors consume an average of two liters of water per day, many from half-liter or 1-liter bottles, which means visitors have the potential to use, on average, 130 million plastic half-liter bottles every year. That is more than 10 million bottles per month, or 355,000 bottles per day, equivalent to 26 Olympic swimming pools filled to the brim with plastic bottles every single year, year after year. And that number can only grow as the number of tourists to Cambodia is projected to continue rising.
Globally, plastic has become a plague on the planet, killing wildlife, choking seas, and filling landfills for centuries to come. Few bottles are recycled as the facilities for doing so are virtually non-existent within Cambodia and the resources for transporting them to neighboring countries are informal and limited. Even in developed countries with formal infrastructure, such as the United States, as little as 23% of the plastic bottles sold end up being recycled. In Cambodia, they end up in landfills or blown around the countryside, which struggles under drifts of plastic discards along roadways, in rice fields and gardens, and along watercourses which often become blocked creating flooding and other damage.
Journeys Within Tour Company’s goal in participating in the Refill Not Landfill campaign is to replace the average of 27.2 single-use water bottles a visitor goes through during their stay in Cambodia with one refillable aluminum bottle, which will be provided to them free of charge upon their arrival.
With orders for 41,000 refillable bottles already across all participating groups, the initial stage of this campaign has the potential to offset the use of 1,115,200 plastic bottles in this way – a huge saving for the environment as well as the local economy.
This initiative reflects a growing global trend towards eliminating the use of plastic bottles and other products as an essential measure for environmental protection. Over the last 15 years, countries such as Ireland, Australia, the United States, India, Bangladesh, Rwanda, China and France have introduced restrictions on the sale and distribution of certain plastic products, including bottles, bags and dining utensils.
In Siem Reap, participating hotels, cafés and restaurants, attractions, tour operators and NGOs will issue their branded bottles to guests and clients in the manner they see fit, and they all have the option to brand them as they choose, meaning Refill Not Landfill can really become part of their identity. The back of the bottles feature the names of all of the free-of-charge water refill locations across the city helping visitors to find them with ease.
This is how one relatively small group is hoping to push along the revolution towards a greener, more beautiful country and planet, for the benefit of those living and yet to be born.
Jaya House River Park Hotel; Phare, The Cambodian Circus; The Little Red Fox Espresso Café; Giant Puppet Parade; Beyond Unique Escapes; Journeys Within Tour Company; Rambutan Siem Reap; Templation Hotel; AMANSARA ; ABBA; EGBOK; Friends International; Sister Srey Café; Angkor Hospital for Children; Bambu Project; Pandaw Cruises; Smiling Albino; Park Hyatt Siem Reap; Sojourn Boutique Villas; Meru Asia; HUSK Cambodia; Babel Guesthouse; Angkor Fight Club; Charlie’s Bar; Knai Bang Chatt; Heritage Suites Hotel; Sala Lodges; Angkor Night Market; Firefly Guesthouse; PACTICS; Blossom Café; Cambodian Travel Partner; Angkor W Restaurants; API School; Memoire Hotels & Resorts.
Siem Ream refill station locations:
New Leaf Book Café; Phare, the Cambodian Circus; Made in Cambodia Market @ Kings Road; The Hive; Little Red Fox Espresso; Beyond Unique Escapes; Sister Srey Café; Masakan Ibu (Mama’s Recipes); Babel Guesthouse; Charlie’s Bar; Miss Wong Cocktail Bar; Angkor Hospital for Children; CONSTABLE Gallery at Large; Spoons (EGBOK Café); Marum Restaurant; Rambutan Phnom Penh; Hard Rock Café Angkor; Khmer Kitchen; The Triangle Restaurant; Mama Shop Italian Food; Chanrey Tree Restaurant; Sokkhak River Restaurant; The Glasshouse at Park Hyatt Siem Reap; Memoire d’Angkor Boutique Hotel.
Photo of single-use plastic water bottles floating in Tonle Sap river during the Siem Reap Water Festival courtesy of Ploy Photography.