The government of Kampot town in southern Cambodia has a fast-growing problem with its waste disposal. Its unsafe dumpsite will hit its saturation point within two years while the town’s tourism popularity continues to grow (increased tourist activity equals increased waste).
In 2011, the local officials linked with ESCAP, the Community Sanitation and Recycling Organization (CSARO) and Waste Concern for help in finding an affordable and enduring solution.
The easy and compelling answer, the Kampot officials decided, is to recycle as much of the waste as possible. That most (65 per cent) of the current 17 tons of waste generated daily is organic makes it a natural base for recycling it into compost. The easy part came in the form of a simple concept that ESCAP and Waste Concern have pioneered – turn waste into a commercial resource. Through what is known as an integrated resource recovery centre (IRRC), waste is processed into compost and recyclable material is reclaimed and sold in bulk to scrap collectors. ESCAP is helping spread the innovation to low-income urban settlements and towns like Kampot across the Asia–Pacific region.
What makes approach equally compelling are the benefits it provides communities: first, many of the waste pickers previously scavenging are hired as staff, thus their income increases and their work conditions are made healthier. Second, a system is devised in which all households receive collection service. And third, the absence of organic waste and less recyclable material in the local dump creates a healthier environment.
Through its regional project, Pro-Poor and Sustainable Solid Waste Management in Secondary Cities and Small Towns, ESCAP is helping to build an IRRC in Kampot. The IRRC will operate as a partnership between CSARO and the local government. CSARO will be responsible for operations, and the current private company collecting waste, the Global Action for Environmental Awareness, or GAEA, will transport the organic waste to the IRRC. Some of the Kampot’s waste pickers will be offered jobs with the centre.
The success of the composting will rely heavily on community participation, so the provincial and municipal authorities will promote source separation. Initially this will be done in the central market, moving later to include restaurants and households in one pilot commune (sangkat). The project includes activities to promote source separation of waste, such as education initiatives at schools and other public institutions. The project’s first step, a baseline study on waste generation, indicated public willingness to separate their waste.