Army of Workers Turn Festival Trash Into Cash

Surveying the vast, spoiled landscape of Phnom Penh the morning after the city’s three-day Water Festival, Top Ta, 15, saw one thing: money.

She began her long battle a­gainst the infinity of plastic bags, empty Styrofoam containers, and other unmentionables around midnight Sunday. By 9 am Monday, she was exhausted, but just a bit richer.

“I am happy to work because I got an extra bonus, $2.50 a day,” she said.

Top Ta is one of the 420 Cintri workers, a private company with exclusive rights to haul Phnom Penh’s trash, dispatched around the clock to cope with the annual deluge of trash.

Sim Kosal, Cintri’s administrative manager, said that this year there was twice as much garbage as last year. “We are lucky this year, there is no rain,” he said. Another im­provement: “We did not see as much human waste on the street as in previous years.”

Phnom Penh municipality and Cintri had transported 2,894 tons of waste to Stung Meanchey dump by Monday, said Phnom Penh Deputy Governor Ou Bun.

City Hall dispatched 600 workers to clean up over the weekend, and installed over 200 toilets and a few hundred extra trash bins, he added.

Ou Bun attributes much of the litter to the 3 million visitors from the provinces, who aren’t used to using trashcans. “People from the country have not changed their behavior yet,” he said.

Local businesspeople praised the municipality for its efforts. “There are more trashcans in the streets,” said Chuon Chenda, 27, who sells DVDs near the riverfront. She said most people made admirable use of the extra trash bins, but didn’t buy enough of her DVDs. “They just passed by,” she said.

Tuy Chantha, 47, the owner of Edelweiss Restaurant, on Sisowath Quay, said the city had done a good job keeping the streets clean and clamping down on illegal street vendors. “Things looked orderly,” she said.


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