A local human rights group called LICADHO recently shared a report uncovering concerning practices within Cambodian brick factories. This report sheds light on the use of waste materials from well-known international brands, such as Adidas and Walmart, being burned in kilns at several factories to reduce fuel expenses. This practice has led to health problems among workers, like headaches, breathing issues, and difficulties during pregnancies.

LICADHO’s report was based on visits to 21 brick factories in Phnom Penh and nearby Kandal province and discussions with current and former employees between April and September. It highlighted the harmful effects of burning garment waste, warning about the release of harmful substances and the presence of high levels of pollutants in the resulting ashes. These substances, like dioxins, have been identified as potential causes of cancer. Previous studies, including a 2020 UN Development Programme report and a 2018 report by UK academics, also pointed out the dangers of burning garment waste due to the release of toxic elements and the presence of harmful chemicals and metals in clothing scraps. Workers in these factories reported experiencing health issues like migraines and nosebleeds, as detailed in the UK report. Brands such as Primark and Lidl have expressed concern and stated that they are actively investigating the situation. Adidas, for example, has pledged to look into whether waste materials are being improperly disposed of. The company emphasized its stringent environmental policies in Cambodia, directing waste to regulated waste-to-energy plants or government-licensed recycling centers. Despite these concerns from various brands, other entities like WRAP, the Cambodian Ministry of Environment, and waste collection company Sarom Trading Co. Ltd. have not yet provided comments or responses.