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Plastic cups runneth over at Cambodia's Rubbish Cafe

Plastic cups runneth over at Cambodia's Rubbish Cafe
Ouk Vanday, the founder of the Coconut School which teaches English and good waste management, smiles at his Rubbish Cafe coffee shop at the Kirirom National Park in Kampong Speu province, Cambodia, July 6, 2019. REUTERS/Lach Chantha -
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KOMPONGSPEU, Cambodia (Reuters) – As Southeast Asia grapples with massive tides of rubbish hitting its beaches, a Cambodian coffee shop owner is looking to build a business out of some of this waste as a way to promote sustainability.

Ouk Vanday runs “Rubbish Cafe”, a small wooden structure on the outskirts of Phnom Penh reinforced with walls made out of beer and plastic water bottles. The cafe spells its name with dead leaves on its signboard.

“This sends a message to other shop owners to think beyond just making a profit, but to look at the big impact caused by trash to their communities and the world – how it affects nature and how it worsens nature, how it affects the younger generation,” said Vanday, a 32-year-old former hotel manager.

Customers can buy a cup of coffee for either 6,000 riels ($1.50) or 100 plastic cups, which go towards the cafe’s construction and other projects.

About 8 million tonnes of plastic make their way to the ocean each year, with Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Thailand counting among the worst offenders, according to a 2015 report co-authored by environmental campaigner Ocean Conservancy.

(Reporting by Chantha Lach and Yiming Woo; Writing by Sam Holmes; Editing by Nick Macfie)

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