Rubbish Cafe: Cambodian coffee shop owner builds a sustainable business from trash

Cambodia’s Rubbish Cafe, a small wooden structure on the outskirts of Phnom Penh built out of discarded bottles and garbage from around the neighbourhood, is proving how waste can be put to good use as a business.

As Southeast Asia grapples with massive tides of rubbish hitting its beaches, Rubbish Cafe manager Ouk Vanday has found a way to make use of some of that trash to both build a business and promote sustainability.

The 32-year-old former hotel manager told Reuters: “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.”

Customers at the Rubbish Cafe 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.

Rosa Medea is Life & Soul Magazine’s Chief. She writes about lifestyles including sustainable and green living. She also offers content services to businesses and individuals at

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