With hundreds of temples within, the Angkor Wat in Cambodia is the largest religious monument of the world. It has become a symbol of Cambodia, appearing even on the national flag. 2016 recorded 2.2 million visitors to the temple. This number has grown from 7650 visitors in 1993. And while this has helped the economy is revenue terms, it has also bought with it the ill-effects of over-tourism. And as one of the closest cities to the monument, Siem Reap has borne the brunt of this over-tourism.
To put things in perspective, in 2015, 4.7 mn tourists visited Cambodia, a large percentage travelling to Siem Reap. With an average water consumption of 2 litres a day, such a number of tourists have the potential to generate, on an average, 130 million plastic half-litre bottles every year. That’s over 10 million bottles a month or 355,000 bottles a day. And this is just Cambodia!
It is in this context that the movement #refillnotlandfill was founded in September 2016 by a group of tourism professionals with a goal to reduce reliance on single use plastic bottles. One amongst them is hotelier Christian de Boer who’s made Cambodia home for over a decade now. Currently, MD at Jaya House RiverPark (a luxurious hotel aimed to be a model of social, human and environmental responsibility in Siem Reap), Christian, passionate about Sustainability, is forerunning the #refillnotlandfill campaign. The campaign has aimed to offer viable solutions to single use plastic bottles. One, involving, the sale of refillable aluminium bottles.
Christian shares, “I honestly believe, we collectively as a world population have to start taking personal control. This is our responsibility. Obviously, I can’t control the whole world but I can control my world. Long before we conceived the idea of Jaya House RiverPark, we were toying with the idea of making a plastic-free hotel. Today, we at Jaya House RiverPark are around 95% plastic free. One of the main needs for plastic use has been that of plastic bottles. So our starting point for the #refillnotlandfill movement was finding alternates to the plastic bottle, which we did in Aluminum bottles. The movement just grew from there as we saw an increase in like-minded participants.”
For the bottles, the campaign partnered with Coola-Products; a small family owned promotional and merchandising company based in Phnom Penh. By pushing for larger quantities, they managed to secure a reduced price for this campaign, starting as low as USD 3.10 per bottle.
Benefits of an aluminium bottle,
· A refillable aluminium bottle can last up to 4 years or more.
· Even if one were to consider an average lifespan of only 3 years, a single aluminium bottle can replace as many as 4380 plastic bottles.
The Refill Not Landfill campaign has already received orders for nearly 110,000 bottles, representing a potential saving of 1 million bottles saved from entering the environment.
Bottles can be filled free of charge across locations – it currently includes 130 locations across Cambodia and the number is growing rapidly. The movement has been ably supported by businesses and organisations which have chosen to become a refill station; the requirement being that they have to supply clean, fresh, hygienic drinking water to any holder of one of the branded Refill Not Landfill bottles. Those keen on becoming a #RefillStation can do so by registering here.
The movement has also expanded rapidly and Christian hopes to see it as a pan-Asian one in the near future. Besides Cambodia, it’s currently active in Myanmar and Laos and is expected to be launched in Vietnam soon. Christian sums up, “The simplicity of this movement has helped it expand this fast. I truly believe instituting a behavioral change needs to be about simplicity which inspires conscious decisions. RefillNotLandfill is a reflection that collectively we can make a difference.”