It’s Cool to Cleanup Luang Prabang


More than 1,000 Luang Prabang residents turned out ahead of World Cleanup Day to rid the UNESCO World Heritage City of trash.

The coordinated crews hit the streets at 07:00 on Friday, 14 September, and after 90 minutes, the city was spotless, with government trucks picking up heaps of garbage at collection points.

Trash Idol, which has held monthly cleanups for more than four years, took the lead in organizing the event. Hotels and a few organizations also hold cleanups, and they quickly jumped on board.

According to Trash Idol Leader Somsack Sengta, “We usually get about 150 volunteers every month, and we go in any weather, even if only 10 people show up when it’s raining.” He added, “We usually collect 800 kg to a ton.”   

From a population of about 50,000, some 1 in 50 Luang Prabang residents gathered in groups to attack one of 16 designated sectors throughout the city.

Volunteers included staff from some 50 hotels, the Red Cross, schools kids, young and old villagers, and even the police.

“We want to hold more big cleanups,” Mr Sengta said. “We may start with one every 3 months and work to monthly.”

He said the objective is to eventually have people learn not to litter. “The true aim is education, and not cleaning. It’s about creating awareness. And we know it’s not just about keeping Luang Prabang litter free. It’s all of Laos. We hope that our clean-up initiative will spread, like kids who go to university take the concept home and pass it forward.”

He also pointed out that no one is forced to do this by their employers. “It’s all volunteer. This will help keep it sustainable,” he said.

“In the future, we want to get more into recycling…maybe have a competition with prizes for those who collect and separate the most recyclable trash,” Mr Sengta said. “In fact, this month we will start separating trash, and sell recyclables for funds to buy bags, brooms, baskets, gloves, masks, and other equipment.”

He aimed to make it fashionable to participate in the cleanup. “People like taking selfies and posting them on Facebook while they pick up trash. It’s cool!”

He said the cleanups show solidarity among the community. “It’s similar to the days when temples were a place to get together and socialize, solve problems, talk about news, and gossip” Mr Sengta said. “Our cleanups are also a social gathering. People meet and talk, and sometimes they see old friends.

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