Women entrepreneurs

Compost City Startup Turns Food Wastes into Fertilizers

An environmentally-conscious social entrepreneur is reducing the amount of kitchen waste sent to landfill by turning it into organic compost.
Composting ingredients
Composting ingredients

A social startup is transforming kitchen waste into organic fertilizer, reducing the tonnes of waste dumped in landfill daily.

Tchaw Monorom, 32, came up with the idea for her social business when practicing home composting and pondered on what happens to all of the food waste that gets sent to landfill.

In 2019, she launched waste management company Compost City with the aim of educating Cambodian households on how to home compost and decrease the amount of kitchen waste that ends up in landfills.

Monorom, who grew up in France, and her team have been working on promoting home composting as they believe it can reduce the amount of kitchen wastes dumped and secure sustainable development for the environment. 

“I first taught myself how to do composting at my house to reduce leftover kitchen waste. With the success and support from my friend, I decided to establish a startup that mainly focuses on connecting people with the environment through composting,” she said. 

Tchaw Monorom holds a bucket of compost
Tchaw Monorom holds a bucket of compost

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An environmental advocate, Monorom said Compost City has been providing a variety of services. This includes home composting equipment and technical assistance that enable those who wish to transform their kitchen waste into national fertilizer that is good for soil and other plants. 

“From the beginning until now, around 300 customers purchased our service and 90 percent of them are Phnom Penh dwellers," she said. 

Moronom obtained a Master’s degree in general management from a university in France. 

She said Cambodians have yet to understand how to control their kitchen waste and it is even more surprising when it comes to home composting. 

“This is something new to them. They sometimes want to try it at their home but, somehow, they are afraid they cannot do it. This is a common challenge for most Cambodians,” she said.

Prach Soengchealy, a resident living in Phnom Penh, is one of Compost City's customers. He started home composting for the first time when Monorom’s startup launched. He explained, “I had witnessed the whole process and thought it is a practical solution to help the environment. I think it will be great if I can turn my kitchen waste into natural fertilizer as I am also running a home-grown plant business," he said. 

Despite the misconception of home composting, Soengchealy said it is easy and affordable to do at home because it does not require much but households waste. ''However, to get people involved in home composting, we should teach them to love the environment first. Inspiration and knowledge are not enough,” he said.

Prach soengchealy (left) stands next to his business partner Lim Bunlong at an event in Phnom Penh in March 2022.
Prach soengchealy (left) stands next to his business partner Lim Bunlong at an event in Phnom Penh in March 2022.

As an environmental lover, he said he never uses chemical fertilizers to grow his plants because he believes it can impact soil quality and other bio-diversities. “Since using composting, I have noticed that soil is more fertile and it is good for long-term use,” he said. 

Composting can be as effective as home composting and reduce the transport cost and emission of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. 

According to a Cambodian Education Waste Management Company (COMPED) report, landfill materials release greenhouse gasses that contribute to climate change. Burning at landfills leaves toxic gas and toxic ash waste and a vast amount of carbon pollution.

“Less organic waste on dumpsites is also less concern about leachate treatment, and ground and surface water quality is protected. Landfill is no longer attractive as animals carry the disease over,” said the report.

However, based on a 2018 report by the Ministry of Environment, more than 90 percent of urban waste is found to contain recyclable materials, such as organic waste 55 percent, plastics 21 percent, and other wastes, but only 20 percent of rubbish is recycled.