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Introducing the “Refill Not Landfill” campaign

Refill Not Landfill logo

From the very beginnings of Journeys Within in Cambodia, we’ve tried to find a solution to the thousands of plastic single-use water bottles that accumulate over time. Like in many developing countries, the tap water in Cambodia and throughout Southeast Asia is not safe to drink, thus single-use plastic water bottles become the norm for visitors, and our guests were no exception.

For years all of Journeys Within’s cars and vans had a cooler in the back full of these environmentally-devastating bottles. Cambodia doesn’t have any plastic bottle recycling, so every bottle was ending up in a landfill, or worse, in the Tonle Sap or Mekong rivers.

Exploring Angkor
Andrea, Callie and Couper explore the Angkor temples with their Refill Not Landfill reusable water bottles.

At the Journeys Within Boutique Hotel we offered glass water bottles in every room and at meals filled up glasses with water, rather than use more plastic bottles, but it was a small dent in a large problem. At one point we ordered BPA-free water bottles and gave them out to each guest, but we soon realized that our drivers and guides were filling these water bottles up from single-use bottles and the problem wasn’t being solved – it was merely being hidden from our guests.

Skip ahead to 2016… Christian De Boer, now the GM of the amazing Jaya House River Park Hotel, came up with and promoted the Refill Not Landfill campaign, and like we had done many years ago, printed up bottles for each of his guests. Here however, is where Christian was able to come up with a real solution to the problem.

Refill Not Landfill bottles in action

Not only did he partner with tour companies like Journeys Within, but he also got restaurants, hotels and entertainment venues to set up refill stations. These refill stations consist of larger water bottles that have clean, filtered water and can be used to refill the smaller reusable bottles. So now, guests can have a Journeys Within water bottle, but get it filled up at their hotel, at their lunch stop and even at the circus that night.

On my July 2017 trip to Cambodia, the kids and I loved having our bottles and we made the most of so many of the refill stations. More and more partners are joining the community initiative and Journeys Within is so proud to be a founding member. Check out this video that highlights how a day without single-use water bottles in Cambodia becomes a reality…

ABOUT REFILL NOT LANDFILL

Refill Not Landfill aims to cut down on the millions of plastic water bottles discarded in Cambodia each year by offering an alternative: reusable aluminum bottles. Our informal consortium hopes to revolutionize the way that tourists consume water in a country where few plastic containers are recycled, with most ending up in mountainous landfills or piling up beside roads, choking the Kingdom’s waterways and littering azure fields with waste. Click here to read more…

Refill Not Landfill bottles in action

Refill Not Landfill bottles in action

Refill Not Landfill bottles in action

Journeys Within joins Refill Not Landfill campaign

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.

Participating organizations:

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.