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River-Ocean Cleanup to hold ‘trash’ art exhibit at capital’s Meta House

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An artist/volunteer at the River-Ocean Cleanup office in Phnom Penh sorts string collected from the river to make art objects for exhibition. RIVER-OCEAN CLEANUP

River-Ocean Cleanup to hold ‘trash’ art exhibit at capital’s Meta House

River-Ocean Cleanup is set to display artwork made from river-collected garbage in Phnom Penh at a public exhibition on September 6 after 10 or more of their volunteers completed their trash and recyclables clean-up goals.

Back in early August, the NGO announced the recruitment of volunteers to recycle about 80 tonnes of garbage collected from the three rivers in Phnom Penh by making it into artwork in order to contribute to the preservation of the environment and encourage awareness about the issue.

The planned exhibition, which consists of items entirely made from rubbish, aims to change perceptions about rubbish because, once we create it through consumption, a great deal of garbage becomes part of the environment and should not be ignored.

It will be held from 6pm at Meta House in Phnom Penh. Admission is free to the public so that everyone can show their support for the work of the volunteers involved in recycling this trash into valuable artwork.

“Whether or not material should be considered trash depends on the value the viewer is giving to the object observed. However, not everybody sees the same objects in the same way. The artists featured in this exhibition found beauty in the trash collected from the rivers and surrounding areas by the Cambodian River-Ocean Cleanup,” the statement said.

Pheap Chanchealin, marketing and social media assistant for the NGO, told The Post that instead of thinking that garbage is something to avoid, everyone should take action by starting up their own volunteer garbage collection and recycling groups and making waste management a priority.

She said the trash that seems to be worthless now is turned into unique works of art through the vision of the artists and now it can be enjoyed freely at this exhibition.

“For us, trash is not worthless. It is a resource, a material that can be useful. Every day, we find interesting objects and colourful materials in the facility. So we thought we could cooperate with local artists to show the treasure in our trash,” she said, adding that for larger scale solutions, new industrial and other practical uses for garbage will hopefully continue to be developed and perfected over time to help break the cycle of waste.

Sok Sopheakdey, another member involved in the garbage art exhibition, told The Post that he was proud to contribute to the recycling of this junk into useful things, like art.

As a Cambodian artist among mostly foreign artists, he said he just hopes that the exhibition will reach a few more people and spark in them a concern for the degradation of the environment and the wasteful consumerist ideal that is ruining the planet.

“My work is not 100 per cent complete, we are still working on it. But it will be ready before the upcoming exhibition. My work is to make a scale replica of Angkor Wat from the rubbish they collected from the river. I went to collect rubbish like various types of wires and then I spent time removing the plastic coating from the wires, which was all necessary for me to do in order to make a replica of Angkor Wat,” he said.

Neth Pheaktra, spokesman for the Ministry of Environment, said previously that giving the public the opportunity to participate in the recycling of garbage collected from the river and turning it into art objects is a good thing that would contribute to awareness of problems concerning waste and could educate people about the impacts of garbage.

He said he thought that the mission of this organisation contributes to showing the possible benefits of waste and proves that with enough creativity it can be recycled and reused to help eliminate the mindset that garbage is useless.

“This waste management is an important point that we call on people to take care of the garbage properly and sort their garbage properly according to its type. This work is not a separate work of the relevant institutions, but a joint work of the people, relevant institutions and private companies that have the same right to collect garbage,” he said.

According to Pheaktra, currently more than 10,000 tonnes of garbage are generated in Cambodia every day, and more than four million tonnes per year, of which 65 to 68 per cent is organic waste that can be processed into compost, but more than 20 per cent is plastic waste, while 10 per cent is solid waste of other material types.


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