Sareth Oun peeled a rambutan and dropped the skin on a ruffled plastic bag next to discarded peanut shells.
With no permanent trashcans in sight, the pile would likely grow throughout the day. Whether it would made its way into a garbage truck that evening was another matter.
Less than a week after Prime Minister Hun Sen asked city dwellers to stop littering because wayward trash was clogging Phnom Penh’s newly rebuilt drainage system and causing floods, vendors at two markets in the capital said they had little choice but to toss trash on the ground and clean up what remained later.
Mr Oun, a 22-year-old trash collector at Phsar O’Russei, said most vendors put their trash in plastic bags and leave a pile of rubbish outside their stalls each day awaiting collection. However, Mr Oun said scavengers often rifle through the bags, spreading the debris along the road.
“There is a lot of litter every day,” he said.
Huch Ky, a 60-year-old fruit vendor at Phsar O’Russei, hauls her garbage to the rubbish truck each evening. She said some vendors and market employees are not as conscientious.
“A few days ago, I saw the [market] porters drop the litter in front of the [drainage] pipe system,” Ms Ky said yesterday.
Most vendors spoken to yesterday said they prefer the current system of trash collection and weren’t sure what could be done to better control litter. None were aware of Mr Hun Sen’s request for residents to stop littering.
Across town at Phsar Kandal, vendors said trash was piled at the south end of the market, where it was collected three times a day. They added that the market’s north end often floods the worst during heavy rains.
Um Dany, a 40-year-old fruit vendor, and Ly Sophing, a 29-year-old cosmetic seller, each pay 300 riel a day to have their trash hauled to the garbage pile. Both women said they bag their trash, but saw others toss loose garbage on the ground and sometimes into streaming water.
“The neighboring sellers throw litter and fruit waste into the floods during the rain,” Ms Sophing said, hesitating as she spoke. “The sellers throw it into the water only when it rains; when it doesn’t rain, they don’t throw.”
“Some sellers throw the litter around their stand,” she added. “They don’t care about littering because they pay for cleaning.”
Nuon Sameth, Phnom Penh municipal deputy governor, was not available yesterday.
Seng Chamroeun, vice-chairman of Cintri, which manages the city’s waste removal, said yesterday that he was in Germany and too busy to comment.