Southeast Asia Info

From 2014-2019 I lived in Siem Reap, Cambodia and helped businesses and schools throughout Cambodia and Southeast Asia in places like Malaysia, Laos, Myanmar and Thailand in reducing single-use plastic and creating environmentally sustainable practices for their business.

Since my background is tourism, I gravitated to hotels and tour companies as I really understand their focus area. I adore working with hotel staff because I see they have a huge impact on their work, families and guests, which can be extremely positive and rewarding.

Cambodia has a lot of NGOs (I also worked for a time in child protection and responsible tourism – so please please read up on this if you’re considering volunteering anywhere in the developing world – my first advice is not to. That’s another story though, let’s focus on the plastic). Education is such a focal point in Cambodia, I also worked with a lot of schools; on occasion with students but primarily I preferred to focus on teachers and staff to become role models for their students and help them create good habits for the environment.

In the future, I plan to keep working in Southeast Asia for part of the year. Consulting and training are some of the most impactful and rewarding parts of my work, and Southeast Asia is my second home on this planet, I want to keep helping guide sustainable development.

Fortunately, I have two freelance staff based in Cambodia who help keep things moving whilst I’m in Australia. Sai is locally based and Chenda travels extensively and they both have a beautiful way of engaging an audience on the topic of reducing waste. 

Need some supplies? Check out these places:

Ecosense/Only One Planet logo
Refill not Landfill logo
Silk Screen printing lab logo

Plastic Free July promo tools (right click, save as…)

Reward a business you know!

Not every business can go 100% plastic free but we can still acknowledge the good work they do! Know a street seller who has real plates on hand? Or a coffee cart that gives discount for BYO cup? They should be applauded for doing what they can, every bit counts. So print out this poster (6 to a page fits nicely… so write several “love letters” for one place or a few!). Right click to download.

About PFSEA

Interviews in print

Podcast interviews
Low Tox Life
Sustainable Nation
Business with Purpose
Wanderlusts Mind
The Altruistic Traveller

Recycling plastic in Southeast Asia

All plastic is really bad for our health and environment. So the best choice is to stop using plastic all together, or reuse certain plastics such as lunch boxes. The ways to reuse plastic are available on the page for individuals. In Cambodia there are no recycling plants, whilst countries such as Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam and Indonesia do have recycling facilities, they are insufficient for the volume of plastics being sent there. Additionally, some facilities are illegal, plastics being sent are contaminated and therefore unable to be recycled and not all supply channels are above board. There is an informal system of recycling workers in the region, in Cambodia they’re called edjai. They take or buy plastic bottles, cans, cardboard and some other items deemed valuable that they can sell to recycling depots who transport the waste to recycling facilities, currently in Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam. This local system is the best option, so separate your waste and put it in a place that’s easy for it to be collected. You may want to talk with your landlord or directly with your local collectors to set up the best system for you.

Reduce your impact

Tips : + Keep all things in one plastic bag. + Get a shopping basket so you don’t need to use plastic bags. + Use refillable water bottle. + Use the chan srak/tiffin/lunch box. + Don’t use plastic straws. See more on the DIY page.

Garbage collection

Garbage collection throughout the region only services a small percentage of waste collection. The rest is either burned, buried or thrown onto illegal dump sites or in waterways. In Cambodia there are two dominant waste collection companies; Gaea – operating in Kampot and Siem Reap and Cintri – operating in Phnom Penh, Battambang and Kampong Cham. KSWM (Kampong Som Waste Management) operate the waste collection in Sihanoukville. Waste Collection Company of Kratie City collect the rubbish in Kratie.

Tourism impacts from plastic pollution

Most hotels provide a lot of room amenities, bottled water, plastic bags, take away packaging, straws, straws, STRAWS packaged in plastic! And that’s just the plastic we can see as a customer, what about the rest that is used for laundry, the kitchen, staff meals and more.
There are 818 properties currently* listed on booking.com for Siem Reap alone!!
What does that mean for local communities? So many impacts! Waste management is basic at best, recycling barely exists, the drive of the tourism industry affects locals in many ways (community, economical – not as good as you might think, environmentally and socially). For plastic alone we can see an increase in brand names like Starbucks, therefore turning locals into consumers of these products too – and with more consumption comes a tide of plastic. Where does it all go? In the canals, on the road, in the rivers, in the ocean and in the jungles around the temples. Some makes it to landfill, but not enough. The rest is burned, causing a myriad of unmeasured environmental and health problems.

Videos about plastic

Please feel free to use these videos in accordance with any copyright laws applicable, always credit the owner of the video if publishing online.

Common Questions

Check here, we’ve put together some more information you might find useful.

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