from the Cambodia Daily, February 3-4, 2007
Man's Trash, Another Man's Treasure: Recycling as
by Kuch Naren and
cans and a plastic container become a child's toy
Car tire turned planter featured on the cover of Reyum's upcoming book on
shrapnel is made into hatchets
glance, the small bells simply look pretty, delicately
fashioned out of copper. But in fact, they are the ultimate
in recycling and an illustration of how Cambodians put to
use the leftovers of war and other discarded objects.
started out as bullets, and were recast using clay molds by
villagers in Kompong Speu province's Odong district.
Rows of these
bell are sometimes used to adorn horses' necks, and a series
of photos at the exhibition "Creative Cambodia, Recycling
Everyday Materials" held at the Reyum Institute on Phnom
Penh's Street 278, shows how they are made.
exhibition is intended to draw attention to the creativity
and know-how behind recycled objects that one may have seen
countless times without giving them much thought, Reyum
Director Ly Daravuth said.
both recycled objects and photos showing how they were made
and are now used, accompanied by short explanations in
English and Khmer.
exhibition illustrates, bomb shrapnel—in abundant sup-ply
due to Cambodia's trouble past—has been melted down and
hammered into cleaver blades, painted to serve as incense
holders or even made into gongs for pagodas.
A soft drink
can end up as a gas lamp, with the metal valve of a tire's
inner tube holding the cotton wick.
Car tires get
cut and converted into shoes for cattle; garment-factory
fabric scraps are woven into rugs and hammocks; and bottle
caps are used to make coconut shredders.
A series of
photos also demon-strates how disused cars are converted
into flatbed trailers, mobile food carts and tuk-tuks.
"What I like
the most at the exhibition is that a 2-liter plastic bottle
can be made into a nice bunch of [artificial] flowers," said
Van Arunmalea, a 19-year-old student at Preah Sisowath High
School who attended the exhibition's opening Jan 19.
referring to an elaborate table decoration of stylized
plastic- flowers standing next to a mobile made of
believe that these recycled tools could be sold at markets
and [could] get strong support if there was better marketing
for them," she said.
young people is one of the exhibition's goals, said Reyum
researcher Preap Chanmara
'We want to spread the idea [of recycling] among the young
generation so that they can get ideas for making new tools
from leftover materials," he said Recycling reduces
pollution and garbage accumulation, he noted.
The notion of
economizing through recycling is very much a part of
Cambodia's culture, Ly Daravuth said.
people in Cambodia say that a young woman who is wasteful is
not a good person," he said.
the wisdom of using what one needs from the Earth," and of
avoiding wasting natural resources, which is one of the
principles of Buddhism, he added.
was borne out of previous research on traditional tools that
the institute published in a book in 2001, said Som Prapey,
also a researcher at Reyum.
research, he said, "we realized that we had never
looked into recycled tools that people were using."
This realization led to months of fieldwork. "I interviewed
and collected information on recycled tools from vendors on
roadsides, in households, from business people and people in
general," Som Prapey said.
"We found out
that our Cambodian people are great about
collecting all discarded material to recycle. They also
want to save existing tools from their ancestors, which
makes them hesitate to give up their long-used tools. So
they recycle them," he said.
Set up in open rooms brimming with light and colors, the
varied displays at the exhibition are bound to trigger the
curiosity of both children and adults.
The exhibition, which is open daily, runs through March.