A recently released report by The Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (LICADHO) has shed light on the use of waste from international brands in Cambodia’s brick factories, including well-known companies such as Adidas and Walmart. The report, based on extensive visits to factories and interviews with workers, uncovered that pre-consumer garment waste, including fabric, plastic, rubber, and other materials, was being burned at seven different factories in order to save on fuel costs.
One of the most alarming revelations of the report is the impact on workers’ health. Several workers reported experiencing headaches and respiratory problems as a result of the burning of garment waste. One worker even stated that it made her feel unwell during her pregnancies. These testimonies highlight the potential danger of inhaling toxic substances released during the combustion process.
The LICADHO report also references an internal 2020 study by the U.N. Development Programme, which shows that burning garment waste can release substances toxic to humans if not properly managed. The study warns that the ashes resulting from this process can contain high levels of pollutants. Among these toxic substances are dioxins, which have been linked to cancer.
While some brands, such as Primark and Lidl, have expressed their intentions to investigate the matter, Adidas has already taken measures to examine if waste is being diverted from authorized disposal routes to the brick kilns. The company’s environmental policies emphasize the proper disposal of waste materials, either at regulated waste-to-energy plants or government-licensed recycling centers.
This disturbing practice raises concerns not only about the health and safety of workers but also the environmental impact. A previous report by UK academics revealed that clothing scraps often contain toxic chemicals and heavy metals used in the dyeing and printing processes.
It is crucial for all brands involved to thoroughly investigate their supply chains and take immediate action to ensure that waste is managed responsibly. The health and well-being of workers should always be a top priority, alongside environmental sustainability.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
1. How are brick factories in Cambodia using waste from international brands?
According to a report by LICADHO, at least 19 international brands, including Adidas and Walmart, have been using pre-consumer garment waste, such as fabric and plastic, as fuel in brick factories to save on costs.
2. What are the health risks associated with this practice?
Workers in these brick factories reported experiencing headaches, respiratory problems, and other illnesses due to the burning of garment waste. The combustion process can release toxic substances, including dioxins, which have been linked to cancer.
3. What steps are the brands taking in response to this report?
Some brands, such as Primark and Lidl, have expressed their intentions to investigate the matter. Adidas has already initiated an investigation into whether waste is being diverted from authorized disposal routes to the brick kilns. The company emphasizes the proper disposal of waste materials as per their environmental policies.
4. What are the environmental concerns associated with this practice?
Burning garment waste can release pollutants into the air, and the resulting ashes may contain high levels of pollutants. Additionally, clothing scraps often contain toxic chemicals and heavy metals used in the dyeing and printing processes, as revealed by a previous report by UK academics.
5. What actions should be taken to address this issue?
It is essential for the brands involved to thoroughly investigate their supply chains and ensure waste is managed responsibly. This includes prioritizing the health and safety of workers and implementing environmentally sustainable practices.