Volunteer Cleanups to Receive Boost From Website, Contest

The Tourism Ministry will introduce a website and contest—currently dubbed Mr. Clean City—later this month to better coordinate volunteer cleanup projects, but organizers worry the waste they collect won’t reach a proper disposal site.

The Cambodia Cleanup website and competition, to start on August 24, are designed to encourage youth groups, NGOs and companies to organize community cleanup projects throughout Cambodia, Huot Rithy, director of the ministry’s clean city department, said in a meeting on Thursday.

A woman walks past a large pile of trash outside Phsar Kabko in Phnom Penh’s Chamkar Mon district on Tuesday. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

“To make the city clean, it’s not on one entity, so we must work together,” he said.

In Phnom Penh, volunteer cleanup groups must get approval from district-level officials before proceeding, City Hall spokesman Met Measpheakdey said.

“We cannot just allow all requests though,” he said. “We have to consider other factors like topic, location, timing, and method of conducting, too.”

Once a volunteer group registers a cleanup event on the web platform, the date will be submitted to local officials for approval, streamlining the previous process, Mr. Rithy said.

In February, three or four teams will be rewarded for their cleanup efforts and raising awareness, and residents’ participation in the contest will contribute to each district and city’s standing in the existing national Clean City competition, Mr. Rithy said.

But once the trash is gathered from a city’s streets and fields, it has to go somewhere, and some people are concerned about the next step.

Nataly Rodionova, a volunteer who has organized cleanups with Facebook volunteer community Go Green, said the group has had intermittent luck organizing pickups with Cintri, the capital’s contracted waste hauler.

Sometimes the firm can pick up waste shortly after volunteers gather it, but volunteers in January waited several days for Cintri to pick up the trash they bagged near the Cambodia-Vietnam Friendship Monument, she said.

Ith Chanda, Cintri’s customer relations and operations manager, said collecting trash outside Cintri’s scheduled pickup was “beyond our company’s responsibility.”

“Our company works on collecting the trash at a regular hour but the people keep throwing them in appropriately regardless of the timing,” Mr. Chanda said.

Ms. Rodionova said volunteers sort plastic and cans from other waste, and give those items to collectors when they can find them during events. Cintri throws all trash, unsorted, into the same dumpsite.

“It’s always important to think where the waste will go,” she said.

Mr. Rithy said district officials would be tasked with contacting Cintri and organizing trash removal after the cleanup events.

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