A report by LICADHO has shed light on concerning practices in Cambodian brick factories, revealing that waste from major international brands such as Adidas and Walmart is being utilized as fuel for kilns.
This discovery raises alarms as workers have reported illnesses linked to the burning of pre-consumer garment waste, including fabric, plastic, and rubber materials from these prominent brands.
The other brands mentioned in the LICADHO report are: NOBO, lupilu, Kiabi, Disney, Reebok, Cropp, Sweaty Berly, GAP, Primark, Sinsay, Tilley, Old Navy, Karbon, C&A, Venus, Athleta, etc.
LICADHO’s findings, based on visits to 21 brick factories and worker interviews between April and September, unveiled distressing health implications. Workers reported suffering from headaches, respiratory problems, and illnesses, with one mentioning the adverse impact on pregnancies due to the fumes generated from burning the garment waste.
The report emphasized that burning such waste can release toxic substances harmful to human health, citing a UNDP study that measured emissions from garment factory incinerators in Cambodia. These substances, including dioxins known to cause cancer, pose severe health risks when not managed under controlled combustion conditions. Additionally, previous academic reports highlighted the presence of toxic chemicals and heavy metals in clothing scraps, potentially leading to worker health issues like migraines and nosebleeds.
In response to the report, several brands, including Primark and Lidl, have initiated investigations into the matter. Adidas, which sources from numerous factories in Cambodia, stated its ongoing investigation to ensure waste disposal compliance with environmental policies. Other brands named in the report offered varying responses, with commitments to investigate, raise awareness, and ensure compliance with waste management standards.
However, some brands and organizations, including the Cambodian Ministry of Environment, waste collection companies, and certain brands mentioned in the report, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The issue spotlights the need for stringent waste management practices within the garment industry, urging brands to prioritize sustainable disposal methods and uphold worker safety and health standards.