Old plastic bags recycled in Cambodia
With its dirt floors and rough backyard it’s hard to imagine this being the birthplace of anything artistic or creative.
But in this humble shack in the south Cambodian town of Kampot, beautiful handicrafts are being carefully created.
Brightly coloured bowls, bags, belts and other products are made here and shipped halfway round the world to the United States.
The products are made by Reloop Designs and are the brainchild of Ruth Yoffe.
An eco-tour group asked her to travel to Kampot in the south of Cambodia and volunteer her expertise to create products from used plastic bags in 2007.
Ruth invested a huge amount of her own time and money trying to make a difference in the small province.
Kampot is a sleepy riverside town and feels a world away from the dusty hustle and bustle of the country’s capital Phnom Penh.
And while the area is home to beautiful sunsets, picturesque rural villages and friendly locals, plastic bags drift everywhere – at the football park, in the river, in trees and on the roadsides.
Ruth’s goal in creating Reloop was to build a company that not only helped clean up Kampot but also helped its inhabitants.
She set about teaching artisan skills to poor and disabled members of the community.
Ruth’s company employs locals to collect bags from around the town.
The bags are rigorously cleaned, dried and then cut into strips and made into yarn ready to be used to crochet bags, belts and bowls.
The process seems simple enough but setting up the enterprise was far from easy.
Coming to grips with the intricacies of customs and shipping from Cambodia to the US was also a steep learning curve.
In spite of frustrations and setbacks Ruth says she has a winning formula.
“I believe this project has great potential not only in Kampot but other parts of Cambodia and South East Asia.
“The efforts and appreciation of everyone I work with in Cambodia are rewarding in themselves,” she says.
One-third of Cambodians live below the poverty line with the average daily wage being about NZ$3 a day.
The artisans are paid a retainer and then an amount for each piece they produce, earning them a fair wage.
Leb Sim has been working for the company as project manager for eight months. He loves his job because he gets to make a difference in the town he loves.
“In Cambodia many people do not care about the environment so I want to be one of the model people to help clean up the environment in Kampot as well as in the whole of Cambodia.”
Ruth’s next goal is to find an organisation that has the business development expertise to take the Reloop model and help it grow.
“My experience in Kampot has been touched by the individuals I have met,” she says. “I am always impressed by their tenacity, their joy of life and determination to help themselves.”
Ben Watson travelled to Cambodia with the help of the Asia New Zealand Foundation.
– North Shore Times
Article excerpted from www.stuff.co.nz
Posted on April 8, 2011, in Going Green and tagged asia new zealand foundation, cambodia, kampot, north shore times, phnom penh, plastic bags, recycle, south cambodia, stuff.co.nz. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.