Stainless steel drink bottles improving conditions in garment factories in Cambodia

3 min read
Staff members at Sabrina factory with their new drink bottles
Image: WaterAid/Phally Bondith

The garment, textile, and footwear industry represent the largest portion of Cambodia's manufacturing sector. The workers are typically women under 35 who are living in temporary accommodation. Many factories are opening in rural areas around the country, meaning  the garment factory workers are commuting significant distances from their villages to work. 

Recent research conducted by WaterAid found there were many potential benefits to improving water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services in industry factories. Among other things, the research found investing in workers’ health and well-being leads to reduced absenteeism, increased productivity and increased profits.

We have been determined to make these potential benefits a reality through a project in nine factories located in Kandal and Kampong Speu, Cambodia. The project aimed to improve the lives of factory workers and their families by providing WASH training to key personnel, developing behavior change communications and intervention activities, strengthening WASH knowledge and skills among women and other marginalised groups as well as local and provincial governments. The project also aimed to advocate for open defecation free status, promote piped water connections, provide subsidy support to those in need to increase access to water supply services and construct water kiosks.

A training session taking place at Sabrina factory
Staff at Sabrina Factory attend a WASH training session
Image: WaterAid/Phally Bondith

Heng Kunthea works at one of the nine factories we have been working in.

Before this training, I never cared if my hands and water bottle were clean and washed properly with soap. But after I joined the training with WaterAid, I understood about handwashing with soap. When I pour the water from the tap, I try to avoid the water bottle touching the tap.”

Many garment factory workers buy plastic bottled water daily and discard the bottle after one or two uses. After completing the training with WaterAid, key personnel at this factory decided to provide all staff members with a stainless steel drink bottle which could be filled at the safe drinking water taps available at the workplace. This aimed to:

  • Improve workers’ health by providing the means to drink safe water at their workplace
  • Reduce expenses associated with buying bottle water
  • Reduce waste and create a more environmentally friendly workplace

Before when I used the plastic bottles, it was difficult to take the water, especially I cannot use it for hot water. But now the factory gave us stainless steel water bottles. Using stainless steel water bottle is the best for us especially we can use it for hot water, it is easy to carry, easy to use and makes us healthy. I think this project is good for us as the factory worker. I would like to thank WaterAid for their training that help all factory workers to understand about WASH”.

Heng Kunthea and her coworkers with their new drink bottles
Heng Kunthea and her coworkers with their new drink bottles
Image: WaterAid/Phally Bondith

Mr Noun Veasna, HR Manager as the factory, was in full support of the move to stainless steel bottles.

The reason behind switching to stainless steel water bottle is because we think it is healthier and more comfortable for our workers. Switching from plastic bottles to stainless steel bottles also helps reduce some of the worker’s daily expenses and also some factory expenses as well. “

You can learn more about this switch to stainless steel drink bottles in this video.

Since the wider project began in 2020, over 200,000 community members and factory workers have benefitted from the various WASH interventions. Other successes include:

  • 15,000 people benefitted from piped water connections that allow them access to safe water at home. This includes 2,450 marginalised community members 
  • 52,000 individuals have improved sanitation  
  • Improvement in 150 sub-national local authorities’ capacity to provide and manage WASH services in their local area 
  • Three provinces have achieved open defecation-free status 
  • WaterAid has developed and rolled out a WASH behavior change promotion package for garment factory workers .