We all know plastic pollution sucks. Seeing and knowing how bad the global plastic pollution situation is, I find myself constantly looking for people, groups and initiatives that mean plastic pollution on earth can be reduced.
Cue the amazing women at Rehash Trash.
First of all, this is a local, female-lead Cambodian initiative. It’s grassroots, eco, empowering and life-changing all at the same time.
Rehash Trash is an initiative of Green Gecko, a Cambodian social enterprise who’ve worked with 100+ former street children and their 32 families over the past 10 years. Green Gecko believes that the long term success of each child is strongly reliant on having long term solutions for their families.
So, the concept of rehash trash was formulated in order to provide steady income in a safe environment for mothers of the children involved with Green Gecko. Many of these women had never gained or has access to formal education or training, or experienced stable work. Some suffer from disabilities, others have long-term symptoms from addiction, abuse and poverty. Therefore, an empowering work program needed to be inclusive and easy as well as cost-effective, with minimal or no raw materials.
“Rehash Trash is not only making great products and cleaning up the environment, it is changing and empowering the lives of our mothers and their families.”
Recognizing the (unfortunate) abundance of plastic in the community, Rehash Trash began as a daily workshop that turned discarded plastic into beautiful pieces. In May 2017, the Rehash Trash mums proudly started to work – full time – in their very own showroom. For the first time, this gave them the opportunity to see their own beautifully handmade products on display and being sold to the public. The women are able to engage with customers from all over the world, holding workshops and selling their goods which furthers empowerment, raises self-esteem and boosts confidence.
Today, Rehash Trash is a thriving business that employs 20 women. Growing business means more income for these women, providing financial stability and greater independence.
Of course, with increased production, the environmental impact has also boomed, meaning that Rehash Trash is recycling approximately 5000 bags per week.
5000 bags! 5000 bags off the street and out of waterways.
Think this couldn’t get better? Well it does.
On top of everything mentioned above, the women of Rehash Trash receive Khmer (Cambodian language) literacy classes, where the mums learn the alphabet and how to read and write for the very first time. They organize a monthly eco fair for the local community, to raise awareness of the environmental issues facing Cambodia. They partner with hotels and other organizations to promote plastic reduction and reuse and are engaged in the project process from beginning to end.
And, their products are beautiful. Think colour coded tableware, mats, baskets, plant holders, chic homewares, decorations and more. They’ve even partnered with Animal Mama Cambodia to produce gorgeous pet toys and beds for your furry friends.
Rehash Trash goes to show how much difference can be made when women are empowered.
Thank you to the women of Rehash Trash and the Green Gecko team. You are amazing and you are proving how much can be done with a simple idea that improves lives, communities and the environment.
Sarah has spent a decade working for social change, leading international projects and teams in Australia, Asia and the Americas. She is a Rotary Global Grant Scholar, has been guest speaker at the United Nations and was awarded International Young Woman of the Year in 2018 for her work in global peace-building.