Sareth Oun peeled a rambutan and dropped the skin on a plastic bag next to discarded peanut shells.
With no permanent trashcans in sight, the pile was bound to grow. Whether it 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, market vendors in the capital said they had little choice but to toss trash on the ground and clean up what remained later.
Pon Dany, chief of Phsar Kandal, said vendors work together to clear rubbish from drains and properly bag garbage. She added that 20 permanent trash bins are scattered throughout the market for customers and sellers.
“Together, we are aware of protecting the litter from running into the water and into the drainage system,” Ms Dany said. “Twenty rubbish bins is enough for a small market.”
She added that plans are being made to install grating over open gutters around the market.
Mr Oun, a 22-year-old trash collector at Phsar O’Russei, said most vendors put their trash in 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 debris along the road.
“There is a lot of litter every day,” he said
Most vendors spoken to this week 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, Ly Sophing, a cosmetic seller, pays 300 riel a day to have her trash hauled to the garbage pile. Ms Sophing, 29, said she sees vendors toss loose garbage on the ground–sometimes into streaming water.
“The sellers throw it into the water only when it rains; when it doesn’t rain, they don’t throw,” she said.
Nuon Sameth and Pa Socheat Vong, Phnom Penh municipal deputy governors, were not available to comment.
Seng Chamroeun, vice-chairman of Cintri, which manages the city’s waste removal, said Monday that he was in Germany and too busy to comment and was unreachable yesterday.