On this episode of Talk Travel Asia podcast, we discuss a topic we’re particularly passionate about: combating single-use plastic, including drinking water bottles: something many travelers have long relied upon, but may no longer need to, thanks to those including today’s guests: Christian and Dean of Cambodia-based Refill not Landfill.

We’re literally burying our planet in plastic!

Plastic is a problem, regardless of where in the world you live or travel. With convenience, development and ‘modernization’, has come garbage, and much of it doesn’t go anywhere for a long, long time. Plastic wrappers, cans, straws and plastic water bottles. You see them everywhere, especially when traveling Asia. Much of the developing world doesn’t have regular garbage pickup or recycling facilities, something travelers perhaps don’t consider when traveling and consuming. With increasing tourism numbers, it’s essential travelers find a way to reduce their footprint not only home, but when they’re guest abroad. Today we’ll be focusing on plastic water bottles, especially in Cambodia, chatting with two gentlemen who are trying to rid their areas of single-use plastic bottles via a campaign, Refill Not Landfill.

Scott & Trevor banter about the issue, experience traveling and why this issue matters, including a passion project Trevor had been working on the past year: Trevor Ranges: My Plastic Footprint.

Refill not Landfill’s Christian de Boer

This week’s guests are two expats who are old hands in the Cambodia tourism scene, especially Siem Reap, the jumping off point for visiting the stunning temples of Angkor. Dean McLachlan works in various tourism projects in Cambodia and Christian de Boer is the Managing Director of Jaya House, a very slick (and plastic free) hotel in Siem Reap. They join us from there by Skype.

Trevor and Scott ask Dean and Christian the following questions:

  1. We usually start our interviews with a quick introduction about our guests. Could each of you briefly tell us where you are from and what brought you to Asia?
  2. Were you always environmentally conscious or involved in environmental and social projects or did Refill Not l\Landfill come about because of your experiences here in Cambodia?
  3. Obviously single use plastic waste is a big problem, but what inspired you to tackle this particular aspect – water bottles?
  4. How does the Refill Not Landfill Program work?
  5. How long has Refill Not Landfill been in operation and how were you able to make it grow?
  6. How many refill stations are there around Siem Reap now?

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For the answers to the following questions, listen to the episode! 

Refill Not Landfill’s Dean McLachlan

  1. How can people get a bottle, how much do they cost, and how much is a water refill?
  2. How has the program been received so far?
  3. What are some of the results, by the numbers: do you know how many plastic bottles you’ve prevented from being used?
  4. What are you plans for expanding the project?
  5. What have been some of the biggest obstacles to get people to partake in the project?
  6. What are the hurdles to get hotels, restaurants and other tourism-related businesses on board?
  7. If people are traveling somewhere that Refill Not Landfill is not, which is most of Asia, what can they do to reduce their plastic footprint?

Christian sums up the episode well: A lot of people and businesses talk about wanting to be env responsible, but only make perfunctory efforts. Jaya House is a plastic free hotel. How hard was that to actually implement? I’m certain that you are already aware of the plastic problem that is facing Cambodia (in fact the world!) For now we are focussing on changing plastic bottle usage as we have a major concentration that is mostly driven by tourism. As tourism professionals we have taken it upon ourselves to find some solutions to this problem! It’s estimated that around 4.6million plastic bottles go to waste every month, in Cambodia alone. This is only based on tourism statistics, so if we include local populations that is even higher! I’m sure you are aware of this, hence your desire to support this campaign!

All photos courtesy of Refill not Landfill

What is it? #refillnotlandfill was founded by a small group of toursim professionals with a goal to reduce reliance on single use plastic bottles. We partnered with Coola-Products; a small family owned promotional and merchandising company based in Phnom Penh. By pushing for larger quantities, we managed to secure a reduced price for this campaign. Normal wholesale from $4.75 per bottle; Refilll not Landfill Price $3.10usd per bottle.

How does it work – The Bottles are 600ml aluminum, with a food/beverage grade liner as per the attached file. All artwork, layout and printing is completed by Coola Products in Phnom Penh providing skilled employment for Cambodians.

Refill Stations: Businesses and organizations can choose 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. We already have more than 83 locations around Siem Reap and in Phnom Penh; we aim to grow this significantly in the coming months.

Marketing/Promotion: Coola Products is sponsoring a website for this campaign, and will advertise and link all businesses. They will also provide stickers advertising the refill stations around town to whoever would like them.

Refill stations are easy to find in Siem Reap, Cambodia

To support our partners, we have created a Facebook discussion group to share ideas and communicate order progress, process etc. Please feel free to joinWe also have a Cause page, which is where Scott & Trevor contacted us from. And we are using the hashtag #refillnotlandfill to consolidate social media promotion.

Who and Where: Growing every day but we have attracted such partners as Amansara, Park Hyatt Siem Reap, Journeys Within Travel, Knai Bang Chatt and many, many more! We have created a simple Google Map to advertise refill and purchase locations;  (open with your Google account works best!)

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See a Photo Gallery of pictures from this episode!

Contribute to an open-source Google Map of Anti-Plastic restaurants, bars, hotels, etc in Asia.


To learn more about Scott & Trevor:

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