Greenpreneurs’ take on Battambang’s waste

Greenpreneurs is a global business accelerating program run by the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI), Student Energy, and Youth Climate Lab. The program supports entrepreneurs and start-up businesses to develop their green growth ideas into viable business plans. In Cambodia, GGGI has extended the program to waste recycling businesses and green service providers in Battambang province. We are currently supporting three recycling businesses: an NGO called Cambodian Education and Waste Management Organization (COMPED), Leap Lim, a waste collection service, and Battambang Plastic Products (BPP), a family-based plastic recycling factory. GGGI Cambodia supports these businesses to find strategic solutions to challenges and provides coaching on financial planning and sales strategies. In an interview with the three green businesses, we asked them how the Greenpreneurs program has made an impact.

Each of the businesses provides essential services tackling Battambang’s waste.

“We run a composting facility next to the landfill in Battambang. We receive two trucks of waste per day (organic waste mixed with plastics, Styrofoam, cardboard, etc.) collected from Pu Puy market; we also collect sugarcane residue from the villages. We separate about 9 to 10 tons of organic waste per day and sell up to 5 tons of compost per month,” explained Ms Sean Bophaphal, the operations manager at COMPED.

At BPP’s factory, they specialize in recycling plastic bags by melting them down into plastic pellets to be sold to businesses or made into new plastic bags. “The plastic we collect mainly comes from “et chay” – or informal waste collectors from Siem Reap, Banteay Meanchey and Battambang municipality. We collect an average of about 1.8 tons per day (about 45 tons per month),” the owners of BPP, Mr. Nirat Khaengkhan and Mr. Neang Chanthara, explained.

Mr. Leap Lem and Mrs. Soum Samnang, the owners of Leap Lim, focus on providing a waste collection service, “since 2018, we have worked with the municipality to collect waste, solid and liquid, in two Sangkats (communes) in Battambang. And we also buy waste from “et chay” for on-sell.”

“Et chay” provide an essential service by sorting through recyclable waste to sell on to businesses such as BPP and Leap Lim. Working with the community is a theme that runs throughout all three businesses as they provide employment opportunities to the people of Battambang and seek to improve the natural environment. Their businesses, however, are not without their challenges.

Ms Sean Bophaphal described the challenges COMPED face in finding new clients to sell their compost to, “we lack the marketing skills to advertise our business and products and we also have a lack of proper equipment to help us process and separate the waste. We also face up and coming competition from people who sell compost using ash and whose price is lower than ours.”

The United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) have provided equipment to COMPED to help strengthen their businesses operations. However, insufficient capital and out of date equipment are also among the issues facing BBP and Leap Lim. GGGI Cambodia and its Greenpreneurs program seeks to support these businesses to overcome their challenges.

“GGGI has taught us and provided training on how to do online marketing and budget management,” explained BPP owners, Mr. Nirat Khaengkhan and Mr. Neang Chanthara. “With their help, the general public has become more aware of us and the kind of business that we run. And now we know how to do online marketing, I would assume that our business will only continue to expand and improve in the future.”

Mr. Leap Lem and Mrs. Soum Samnang described how their business has received greater public exposure, “with the help of GGGI, we now know how to write better and more convincing project proposals. You also help us to understand more about project implementation, budget planning, and ways to seek business funds.”

Since joining the program, COMPED has seen improvements in their business, “the process of waste separation has become a lot quicker and easier. As people understand more about the different kinds of waste, it makes it easier for them to separate the waste. As a direct result of that, we have received a lot more organic waste and our workers spend less time separating the mixed waste from the market.”

COMPED have also benefited from the program as a platform for developing ideas, “we are very satisfied with the help provided by GGGI. We have become more knowledgeable and more confident as a business operator thanks to your help. Sometimes the coach asks a question and it’s something I have never thought about before. So, it sparks me to think about the idea and how I can integrate this idea into my business.”

For BPP, shifting their business operations online has been a great progression, “now that I’ve learned about online tools, I can check my stock and supplies online, so I don’t have to be physically present in the office… However, there is no proper structure in the business operation, and we have not noticed a big change from the coaching yet. But I believe, if we hire a person to manage the online platform, we will be able to run the factory using the online platform.”

“We are very thankful for all the help given to us by GGGI. Your support and the technical training you provided to us has given us the opportunity to expand our business, making it more profitable and increasing our reach. I hope that GGGI will continue to support us to expand our markets…I am sure that your program can help many other operating businesses like us. The bottom line is that I would recommend this program to anyone that is interested.”

Since joining the Greenpreneurs program, Leap Lim have expanded their network, enabling them to buy almost a ton of plastic waste, as a starting point. “We now know how to write business proposals. GGGI also supports us with creating a financial system for our business and we have received a lot of reports and documents about how to write and sell our proposals,” they explained.

“We would highly recommend GGGI’s Greenpreneurs program to all operating businesses that might be interested. I am sure that you can help them as much as you have helped us.” Leap Lim is also eager to learn from similar businesses operating in neighboring countries.

While the Greenpreneurs program has seen these three businesses improve their business operations, they face ongoing challenges to improve sustainable waste management in Battambang.

For COMPED, this means expanding their storage space for organic waste, “as of now, we are running out of space to store our sorted organic waste, so we don’t have a choice but to place it directly on the dirt. Or we can improve the storing location of the organic waste,” they explained.

“We would like GGGI to continue supporting us in order to receive the plastic recycling machinery, which means that we still require your help to learn how to apply for budget funding,” explained Mr. Leap Lem and Mrs. Soum Samnang. “And yes, we still need your support to educate people on how to sort and collect waste and seek markets for us to sell the plastics we buy.”

Further education about waste separation was identified by all three of the business as vital to improve the efficiency of their operations.