The May 16 “Textile Waste Opportunities for Circular Textiles, Garments and Footwear in Cambodia” workshop was held in Phnom Penh, as a collaboration between the German Cooperation Organization (GIZ) in Cambodia, the Global Circular Fashion Forum, the global Fashion Agenda and the European Chamber of Commerce in Cambodia (EuroCham), with officials from the Ministry of Environment and about 50 representatives of international organisations in attendance.

International and domestic organisations working on the fields of waste and the environment organised a roundtable discussion to gather input on reducing the environmental impact of the Kingdom’s textile, clothing, and footwear industries.

Addressing the meeting, GIZ country director Gunter Riethmacher noted the importance of dealing with the waste generated by the textile sector.

“Uncontrolled dumping affects the environment and public welfare. All stakeholders must work together to promote social development and provide joint solutions that reduce carbon emissions,” he said.

Pak Sokharavuth, environment ministry secretary of state, who also attended the conference, said the government of Cambodia has made maximum efforts to reduce the environmental impact of the industrial sector, including waste, which is considered a priority sector.

He added that identifying waste is important, but noted that a lot of waste from the textile industry was recyclable, and should not be treated as solid waste.

“It is recyclable, so it is still valuable. We should be discussing what we need to do to establish a business model for this,” he continued.

He said the ministry will support the processing of textile waste.

“The government is committed to working with its partners and looks forward to establishing a successful textile waste management system,” he concluded.

Mushtaq Memon, regional coordinator for the UNEP’s Asia Pacific Chemicals and Pollution Action Programme, participated via video link.

“We are facing a crisis with climate change, loss of nature and biodiversity polluted by waste, and we need to take action,” he said.

He added that fabric needs to be kept in the textile value chain for as long as possible.

“This will reduce the use of natural resources and the environmental impact of economic activity in the textile industry,” he explained.

Textile, Apparel, Footwear, and Travel Goods Association in Cambodia (TAFTAC) vice-chairman Albert Tan addressed the closing of the workshop, noting that the event touched on a very important topic for the industry.

“Many buyers have begun to pay attention to this aspect, while manufacturers are working hard to go green. Sustainability is no longer a recommendation, but a market demand,” he said.

He described how participants learned a lot from the speakers and panel discussions, and hopefully some of these ideas and suggestions will be put into practice to support efforts towards sustainability and industry competitiveness.

“The topic of circularity has been around for a while, but it’s a new topic for most business operators in Cambodia, possibly including government policy makers. TAFTAC looks forward to seeing more concrete programmes and actions in our field. TAFTAC is committed to playing its role in promoting this theme,” he concluded.

Edwin Keh, director-general of the Hong Kong Research Institute of Textiles and Apparel (HKRITA), said that compared to when he visited Cambodia in the 1990s, he was impressed by the Kingdom’s remarkable progress.

“If we look back over the past 20 or 30 years, we can all see how much Cambodia has grown. A large part of that growth has been through the garment, textiles and footwear sectors,” he added.

“It is very important that we all offer as much input as possible to the assembled NGOs today, so we can be part of the transformation of these industries,” he concluded.