Cambodian Journalists Alliance Association

Garment Waste From Walmart, Disney, Other Major Brands Continues to Fuel Cambodian Brick Kilns

A white cloth with Herschel Supply Co. branding that appears to be a piece of a diaper bag sold by the brand, lays on the ground at a brick factory where children of workers play. (CamboJA/Leila Goldstein)

“The future is yours,” a white cloth proclaims from the ground of a brick kiln littered with discarded garment waste. The scrap, bearing the logo of the Canadian backpack company Herschel Supply Co., appears to be a piece of the brand’s “perfect diaper bag” with material made from “100% recycled post-consumer water bottles.” A group of brick workers’ children play among the piles of offcuts with labels from other major clothing brands: Adidas, Reebok, Madewell.

Here in Kandal province, about an hour’s drive from Phnom Penh, strips of factory textile off-cuts – the unused cloth and scraps left over from producing clothes – spill out of trash bags stacked up along the length of the kilns, each with a set of soot-covered chimneys peeking out above a metal roof. On the other side of the kilns, rows and rows of unfinished bricks wait to be baked.

Heng, a nearby worker in his 20s who requested not to use his real name for fear of retribution, handles loading finished bricks onto trucks and driving them offsite to customers. He dropped out of school in the 5th grade and then started working at brick factories to support his family. His parents, who began working at the factory when they married, retired due to old age, leaving Heng to support them and a younger sibling who was ill. 

He says the kiln burns garment waste because, at $100 a truck load, it is seven or eight times cheaper than buying wood.

“It has an unpleasant burning smell and it affects our health. I cough and something black comes out of me,” he says, speaking to CamboJA News during a break from stacking bricks onto a truck bed. 

Nearby, another worker in her early 40s says she owes the owner about $5,000 from loans she took out when she and her child were sick. 

“I cough and get sick easily. The coughing is what impacts me the most,” she says. 

The burning of pre-consumer scraps of fabric discarded by garment manufacturers has been a persistent problem at Cambodian brick kilns, along with other violations such as child labor and debt bondage. A downturn in the construction business during the pandemic has left brick factory owners searching for any way to cut costs as the price of bricks has plummeted. One tactic is illegally purchasing and incinerating garment offcuts to fuel the kilns, a practice that harms the health of workers and nearby communities.  

Despite news coverage and independent research over the past six years highlighting harms of brick factories burning garment waste, CamboJA News found waste with branding from over 35 international brands and companies at brick kilns between February and April of 2024 in Kandal and Prey Veng provinces. Additionally, CamboJA journalists found documents with the names of seven garment manufacturers at the kilns. The reporters visited nine brick factories and spoke to over 15 workers, both on and off worksites, and traced the journey of these scraps from garment factories to scrap businesses to kilns.

The journey from clothing factory to brick kiln

Cambodia is the eighth largest exporter of clothing in the world, with over 600 garment exporting factories employing more than 85% of the industry workforce in 2018. Over half of the industrial waste in the country comes from garment waste which, in 2019, totalled about 90,000 tonnes. 

The waste primarily comes from leftover scraps from garment construction and manufacturing defects. After being bagged and stored, it is handed over to disposal services, burned in garment factory boilers or sold to waste collectors. Less commonly, scraps are recycled or returned to the supplier.

Selling the waste can be legal if properly documented by the company, but researchers have reported on the illegal sale of garment scraps in the country’s active informal waste collection sector. 

A report from the Royal Holloway, University of London in 2018 notes that middlemen purchase textile waste from waste disposal trucks on their way to landfills and subsequently sell the scraps to brick kilns. 

A 2021 report from German development agency GIZ examined Cambodia’s waste streams, noting a “thriving unregistered industry” of selling garment waste. The report documents interviews with garment factory staff who say their factories sell textile waste to scrap collectors, which is later sold to brick kilns.

The waste gets diverted at multiple points on its way to a landfill. Some factories sell it directly to large-scale scrap collectors, who then sell it to brick kilns or truck drivers planning to make their own sales at brick factories. 

There are also micro businesses who buy offcuts to produce mats and hammocks, who later sell their unused scraps to collectors who resell them to brick kilns. The GIZ report found that thousands of tonnes of cutting scraps are being sold annually to the informal waste collection sector, although a more precise estimate has not been established due to a lack of data.

Government policies mandate that waste disposal be subcontracted to private companies. Sarom Trading Company received an exclusive permit to collect and transport industrial waste in 1999, and was tasked with building and managing a landfill site in Kandal province. Companies transporting or managing disposal sites for garment waste, considered hazardous, are subject to permit by the Environment Ministry. The ministry is tasked with monitoring the disposal of hazardous waste, and can enforce penalties for improper waste disposal under the 1999 Sub-Decree on Solid Waste Management and the 1996 Law on Environmental Protection and Natural Resource Management.

West of Phnom Penh’s city center in an area dotted with garment factories, a security guard outside a gated facility tells CamboJA News the company sells its garment waste, with a truckful of fabric leaving the factory every evening.

Around seven kilometers away, down National Road 4, is a landfill in Phnom Penh’s Kambol district where hazardous waste such as garment waste can be disposed of. A metal barrier blocks the entrance to the dump, but at homes and convenience stores on nearby streets, stacks of bagged up waste wait to be resold. Small warehouses surrounding the dump also sort through plastic bottles, cardboard and clothing scraps.

At one waste sorting business, workers hoist bags of fabric offcuts onto a truck. A worker says that the waste is from a nearby clothing factory, and the driver is headed for a brick kiln. At another waste depot, a waste sorter says the business gets a truckload of clothing from a garment factory dropped off each day, which is then bought by a brick kiln in Kampong Cham province. 

“[The waste depot] buys it from the factory. I don’t know what factory. They bring it here so I only work hard to sort it,” she says.

Laurie Parsons, a senior lecturer in human geography at Royal Holloway, University of London who has conducted extensive research on brick kilns in Cambodia, says brands, garment factories and waste disposal companies are well aware that the scraps are being sold and used at brick kilns.

“Cambodia is a low income country. Many of the people who are working in these environmental management companies, waste disposal companies, they’re earning very little,” he said. “If there’s a way to earn a little bit of extra money, then they will do it as long as there aren’t any safeguards in place to avoid that happening.”

Phnom Penh’s 31-hectare landfill in Dangkao district filled up by 2022 and authorities began working on building a new landfill north of the city. 

“They’re actually having to build a bigger dump,” Parsons said. “…which tells you the story of what’s happening to all of these zero waste commitments from brands.”

Workers at a waste sorting business near a landfill in Phnom Penh’s Kambol district hoist bags of fabric offcuts onto a truck headed for a brick kiln. (CamboJA/Leila Goldstein)

Brick Workers

Narim, a brick factory laborer in his 40s, has been working at a Kandal brick kiln since 2017. He asked not to use his actual name due to fear of retribution from his employer. The workers live at the factory, and Narim has worked hard to keep his children in school so that they can one day have white collar jobs that do not rely on physical labor. 

“I have positive hope that my children will not follow in my footsteps,” he said. 

His boss has not paid him his salary since early February, he said, but he is afraid to protest because the owner of the factory is a high ranking government official. As a result, Narim has taken out even more loans from the owner to pay for his family’s living costs.

The factory he works at has burned garment waste ever since he started, causing him and other workers to have respiratory issues, sore throats and asthma. He wishes the factory would stop using garment waste, as he is not able to afford treatment for health problems. 

“A great cloud of smoke billows out of the chimney when only textiles are used, while soot drops continuously down from it,” he said. “I am afraid that my children will be affected by the toxic smoke.” 

At one point, he said his boss gave him a National Social Security Fund card that could be used for medical care, but he was later told that the card was invalid and could not be used. 

“The poor do not have enough protection methods to prevent it from causing health problems,” he said. “The toxic smell from the waste makes us barely able to breathe. It causes a smoky atmosphere which suppresses our breathing when we’re nearby.”

Brick workers, who already face many health issues including working in incredibly high temperatures and lack of sleep, deal with additional challenges at sites that burn garment waste. The incineration creates microplastics that are often carcinogenic, and poor respiratory health can cause cardiovascular issues in workers and nearby community members.

Pulmonologist Sandeep Salvi, director of the Pulmocare Research and Education Foundation in Pune, India, says breathing in these kinds of pollutants can cause asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, infections, lung cancer, heart attacks, strokes and psychological issues. 

The poverty, overcrowded living quarters and poor nutrition workers experience amplify the effects of air pollutants, with pregnant people, the elderly and children at even greater risk.  

“If the lungs get damaged in childhood, then the effect remains for almost a lifetime. It’s very difficult to recover and revive from that toxic assault at that age,” he said.

Almost one in five deaths of Cambodian children under five are attributable to air pollution. While research on the health of Cambodian brick workers is limited, studies in India have linked exposure to pollutants from brick kilns to deteriorating lung function of brick workers. The 2018 State of Global Air report from the NGO Health Effects Institute found that smoke emerging from brick kilns was an important contributor to respiratory-related deaths in India.

Burning garments at brick kilns can also impact the environment, producing a high level of carbon emissions and emitting toxic chemicals including chlorine bleach, formaldehyde and ammonia. Incinerating textile waste could lead to poor harvests for area farms, as air pollution has been found to stunt crop growth, further impacting local communities. 

A worker hauls bricks on a cart at a factory. CamboJA News visited nine brick factories and spoke to over 15 workers, both on and off worksites. (CamboJA/Sereifong Hong)

Brick kiln owners and managers

An hour and a half away from Phnom Penh’s garment factories is Tang Song Brick Factory in Prey Veng province. The factory sits in a row of brick manufacturing plants, and workers, who live on the property, stack bricks onto a truck near the entrance. Next to the openings of the kilns, multicolored cloth spews out of clear plastic bags like silly string. Logos from Puma, Ralph Lauren and the Walmart brand No Boundaries stick out of piles.

A worker in her 20s who has loaded bricks at the factory for the last four years says she took out a loan from the owner for $300 to purchase a motorbike, and she is not sure how long it will take her to pay it back. She says she makes 60,000 riel, about $15, for loading 10,000 bricks. 

The business has not made a profit since before 2020. Owner Tang Song, 52, says the kilns used to bake bricks daily, but now production is irregular. Since the pandemic, many of Cambodia’s  brick factories have slowed production or closed down altogether. 

Song’s factory is only pumping out about a third of the bricks it used to. He also claims that half of his 20 person workforce from before the pandemic, all of whom are indebted to him, have “sneakily” fled the factory in the night.

“Brick owners are deceived by the workers. Each of them owed about $3,000 or $4,000 dollars. When our business could not make a profit, the workers lied to us,” he said. “They ran away without giving the money back.”

Debt bondage, in which laborers are forced to work in order to pay off debts, is a pervasive problem in Cambodian brick kilns. The industry has around 10,000 workers, according to a 2020 report from the Building and Wood Workers Trade Union Federation of Cambodia. While limited in size and location, research conducted for Licadho’s 2016 and 2023 reports found that nearly all of the brick workers interviewed were indebted to their employers. 

Indebtedness is also linked to child labor, as families seek desperate ways to pay back their loans while earning little. The Cambodian government and the Ministry of Labor have repeatedly claimed to have found no cases of child labor or debt bondage after industry-wide inspections.

Labor Ministry spokesperson Katta Orn and Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation spokesperson Touch Channy did not respond to questions sent over Telegram by CamboJA News. 

When asked how long he thought it would take one of his workers to pay back their loans, Song said that was not what he wished for.

“I don’t hope that they will pay back the debt. Just let them do the work and get some money back,” he said. “Now it’s fine to not pay back the debt, just let them work in this situation.”

Places in Phnom Penh, Kandal province and Prey Veng province where CamboJA News documented garment waste.

Licadho’s 2023 report on the industry found that most of the brick workers interviewed had not meaningfully reduced their debts due to low pay. Workers reported earning between $2.50 to $7.50 a day during periods of brick production, with most debts between $2,000 and $3,000. Some factory owners keep land titles and identification cards of their workers, and the presence of police officers when loan documents are signed can further deter workers from leaving before they have paid their debts. 

According to Licadho’s report, there are no known prosecutions of brick factory owners for holding people in debt bondage. 

One cost-cutting measure Song has taken over the last five years is fueling the kilns with garment scraps, a cheaper material, in addition to wood. He has the phone number for a garment waste seller who picks up waste from Phnom Penh and makes the hour and a half drive to the brick kiln to drop it off.

“Whenever we need it, we call them,” he said.

Song warned a CamboJA News reporter not to take pictures of children present at the worksite, noting that an organization had come to his factory recently and told him that child labor was illegal. He openly discussed with reporters how his factory uses garment waste and said he had not been visited by Ministry of Environment officials in recent months.

Provincial environment authorities had, however, visited other factories much closer to the capital in Kandal, according to a Kandal factory manager. Officials came sometime in November or December and told them to stop burning garment waste because it affects the environment. These visits coincided with Licadho’s November report on the industry, which received international news coverage.

“When we burn some fabric mixed with wood, we save some money. The wood is expensive and the fabric is cheap. But it affects the environment,” the manager said.

In February, only small scraps and clothing tags from Puma, Athleta and Under Armour lay on the ground of Kandal’s Diamond Brick Factory, and CamboJA News reporters did not see bags or piles of garment waste. 

But a brick worker told CamboJA News that the factory had started using garment waste again in March, estimating that about 10 trucks had come over a period of a month. When CamboJA News visited the site for a second time in April, bags of garment waste were stacked in an enclosed area to the side of the kilns not visible from the entrance.

Since environmental officials had come to inspect the kilns, the worker said the garment waste is no longer piled up all around the factory as it was before. Now, when the trucks arrive, the textile scraps are brought right away to the kilns to be incinerated.

“After it is all consumed, more comes,” he said. 

CamboJA News called company phone numbers listed on a sign at Diamond Brick Factory, but the person who answered would not provide the contact information for the company owner and hung up the phone. When contacted in June, the manager acknowledged that there was garment waste at the factory when reporters visited in April, but denied that the factory was continuing to burn garment waste.

Adidas spokesperson Stefan Pursche told CamboJA News that the Cambodian government “made a commitment to carry out targeted interventions and improve environmental and labor conditions at the brick kilns” following calls from brands to improve the sector in 2023.

Environment Minister Eang Sophalleth and ministry spokespeople Khvay Atitya and Choup Paris did not respond to questions sent over Telegram regarding recent inspections of brick kilns or actions taken by the ministry to address the use of garment waste. Government spokesperson Pen Bona told CamboJA News to direct its questions to the Environment Ministry and the Labor Ministry.

Khun Tharo, program manager with the NGO Central, said ineffective government inspections are not unique to this situation, stating that past inspections by the Ministry of Labor did not ameliorate the problem of child labor in the industry. 

“Doing an ad hoc process like that is not going to have any impact on the improvement of the workers on the ground in terms of their occupational health and safety and what they are facing,” he said. “There have to be systematic inspections, not just one ministry doing the inspections in particular cases.”

The industry needs to be regulated, with consistent, regular checks of factories along with enforcement, he said. But all of this requires political will on the part of the government, he said, which takes outside pressure and media attention on the issue.  

“At the end of the day, it’s the government [who] is the one who will do it. But how can we make them accountable? I think it’s a matter of building consistent pressure,” he said.

A black hole of responsibility

Cambodian brick kilns burning garment waste is not a new phenomenon, nor is it a newly publicized problem. 

Starting in 2018, international brands have been contacted about garment waste in Cambodian brick kilns in at least four separate investigations by journalists and researchers before CamboJA News’ investigation. CamboJA News found garment waste with branding from more than 35 international companies, from Gerber baby wear to Manchester United merch. Of these brands, four have been notified at least two other times with allegations that their waste was found at brick kilns: Walmart, Gap, Reebok and Disney. The companies Ralph Lauren, Lululemon, J. Crew, Adidas, Nike, C&A and Under Armour have all been notified at least one other time before CamboJA’s investigation. 

Parsons with the University of London says the persistence of the problem, its ability to pop up again and again “like whack-a-mole,” reflects the limited willingness of brands to take responsibility. 

“[There’s] no interest on the part of those brands to actually tackle what it is perfectly profitable to ignore,” said Parsons. “It’s essentially a kind of black hole of responsibility, a black hole of surveillance over what’s happening.”

One third of the companies said they would investigate CamboJA News’ findings, some of which had made the same pledge in November concerning Licadho’s findings. For example, when CamboJA News requested comment from C&A regarding Licadho’s findings in November, the company said it investigates immediately if it receives indications of irregularities concerning waste disposal. C&A sent the same statement in May regarding CamboJA News’ investigation. However, the company has never responded to Licadho, and did not respond when CamboJA News asked in a follow-up email if the company had in fact investigated Licadho’s findings.

Similarly, in an October 2023 letter to Licadho, Adidas said it was investigating Licadho’s findings and would contact the NGO again once the investigations were completed. Adidas did not reach out to Licadho again with the results of its investigation until after CamboJA News asked in May if the company had followed up.

Several brands, including Lululemon, J. Crew, Puma and Carter’s, noted that they require their suppliers to follow Cambodian law when disposing waste. Two brands noted that it was beyond their control if waste was diverted to brick kilns after it left a garment factory. In an email from Garan, the company stated that it “has no control over waste once it leaves the factory.” Puma stated that “under certain circumstances – beyond the control of the factories and the collectors – textile waste can leak and be used inappropriately.”

Ken Loo, ​Secretary-General of ​the Textile, Apparel, Footwear & Travel Goods Association in Cambodia, said authorized waste collectors remove waste from the factories of the associations’ members. “How these garment waste then end up at brick kilns is beyond our control,” he said. 

But Tharo of Central says brands do in fact have control, and following the law in the Cambodian context is insufficient, where regulations are weaker than in other countries and not enforced.

“When you are trying to say that you follow the law, look at the law in Cambodia,” he said. “We don’t have the occupational health and safety law in the country. We have environmental laws and this type of thing, but we don’t have specific regulations.”

International brands select their suppliers, can monitor the cycle of production and also have leverage and influence, he said. Companies can make larger efforts to monitor their suppliers, requiring documentation and measurement of waste produced. Brands can also pursue alternatives to landfills by investing in recycling plants in the country. 

“I think it’s not really difficult at all, but the matter is if they care about it. Of course they care about their fashion, they care about their product image,” he said. “They will not take any action unless we are shaming, we are naming. That’s what they care about.”

Smoke rises from chimneys at a brick factory. Brick workers face additional health challenges at sites that burn garment waste. (CamboJA/Sereifong Hong)

Additional reporting by Eung Sea and Ly Rosslan. Multimedia visuals by Emilie Languedoc. Reporting for this story was supported by Internews’ Earth Journalism Network.


Below is a catalog of the waste CamboJA News found at brick kilns, as well as responses from clothing brands, garment manufacturers, industry associations and brick factories.

Clothing Brands and Companies

Manufacturing and Waste Disposal Companies

Industry Associations

Brick Factories

Clothing Brands and Companies

365 Kids from Garanimals

CamboJA News found waste with 365 Kids from Garanimals branding at a brick factory in Kandal province in February. 

In an email David Fligel, chief financial officer at Garan Inc., said the company had investigated CamboJA News’ claims. 

“Garan is not involved with any brick factories, does not provide its clothing to brick factories, and does not have knowledge of its clothing being used by brick factories. Further, Garan has no control over waste once it leaves the factory,” he wrote. “We appreciate and encourage you to continue seeking to expose bad-actors – we are not one.”

He stated that the company takes its obligations and reputation seriously, adding that Garan was not “involved in the brick factory’s actions” and “any statements to the contrary would be considered libel.”

In a follow-up email, he stated that the company has had 38 million garments produced in Cambodia in a period of over 10 years. He acknowledged that the two items CamboJA News photographed appeared to be from a Garan brand “but since counterfeiting exists in that part of the world, we cannot be 100% sure.”

The tags CamboJA News photographed, if authentic, were phased out in early 2023, according to Fligel. He added that the company, which primarily produces childrenswear, is “exceptionally sensitive to children and their wellbeing.”

365 Kids from Garanimals products are sold at Walmart. In an email, Fligel said “this issue has never been brought to our attention, nor did we know it was even an issue as we have no connection to the brick industry.” CamboJA News’ 2024 investigation is at least the third time waste with Walmart branding has been found at brick factories in Cambodia since 2018. Licadho’s 2023 report on the industry received international news coverage that specifically mentioned Walmart’s waste, with Walmart featured in the headline of a Reuters article. Licadho notified Walmart in October 2023 but did not receive a response, according to the NGO. 

In 2019, the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre contacted Walmart concerning its waste found by the team of researchers behind the 2018 Blood Bricks report. Walmart responded that it was “committed to responsible sourcing,” adding that “we take your issue seriously and will be sure to elevate it to the appropriate parties.”

Additionally, CamboJA News found waste with Modern Moments by Gerber branding, also sold at Walmart, at the same factory as the waste with Garanimals branding. Waste with No Boundaries branding, a clothing line at Walmart, was also found at two brick factories, one in Prey Veng province and one in Kandal province, in February. 

Blair Cromwell, a director of global communications at Walmart, responded to CamboJA News’ request for comment by asking for photographs and additional information on the factories. CamboJA News provided this, but did not receive any further response from the company. 

Adidas

CamboJA News found waste with Adidas branding at three different brick kilns, two in Kandal province and one in Prey Veng province. Waste with branding from the football clubs Bayern Munich, Manchester United and Juventus was also found. Adidas creates merchandise for all three teams.

One Chinese-language document found appears to be a garment manufacturing document for a Juventus/Adidas shirt which includes the name for the Chinese clothing manufacturer Shenzhou International Group. The company is owned by billionaire Ma Jianrong and has customers including Adidas and Nike. 

CamboJA News’ 2024 investigation is at least the second time waste with Adidas branding has been found at brick factories in Cambodia since 2023. Licadho found over 20 items marked with Adidas at two brick factories in 2023.

In an email to CamboJA News, Adidas stated it investigated similar garment waste findings in 2023. In an October 2023 email to Licadho, Adidas said it was investigating Licadho’s findings and would contact the NGO again once the investigations were completed. According to Licadho, Adidas did not reach out to the NGO again with the results of its investigation until after CamboJA News asked in May if the company had followed up. 

Adidas told CamboJA News it called on the Cambodian government to improve licensing and control of waste haulage contractors to prevent illegal diversion of waste, as well as to improve labor and environmental enforcement efforts in brick kilns. According to Adidas “the government made a commitment to carry out targeted interventions and improve environmental and labor conditions at the brick kilns.” The company added that it has strict environmental policies in place for its upstream supply chain.

Aldo

CamboJA News found shoes with Aldo branding at a brick factory in Kandal province in February. The corporate communications and corporate social responsibility team at the Aldo Group told CamboJA News that it was “very concerned” about the findings and “will investigate further.”

The spokesperson added that the Aldo Group does not work with brick kilns and “trades exclusively with suppliers that comply with our strict code of conduct” for vendors, adding that all of the Cambodian factories it does business with have a waste management contract with a government-authorized waste treatment company.

And1

CamboJA News found waste with And1 branding at a brick factory in Kandal province in February. Edward Anteby, director of operations in the active division of Galaxy Universal, which owns And1, said in an email that the company was conducting an investigation into CamboJA News’ findings, and needed more time to investigate and offer a more proper reply. He added that the company “would not take factory violations lightly,” and that all of its licensees have strict standards for social and environmental compliance. 

The licensee for apparel, which manages the production and distribution of apparel for And1, said it was investigating CamboJA News’ findings. In a statement it said “we have no knowledge of And1 products being incinerated in Cambodia” and that its internal policies prohibit the use of brick factories for disposal and require that waste be disposed of properly.   

Apt. 9 and Sonoma Good For Life (Kohl’s)

CamboJA News found waste with Apt. 9 and Sonoma Good For Life branding at a brick factory in Kandal province in April. Both brands are owned by Kohl’s, and the company did not respond to a request for comment. 

CamboJA News also found waste with Little Co. by Lauren Conrad branding at a different Kandal brick factory in February. The baby goods brand Little Co. by Lauren Conrad is sold at Kohl’s. 

Athleta (Gap Inc.)

CamboJA News found waste with Athleta branding, a brand owned by Gap Inc., at a brick factory in Kandal province in February 2024. The company did not respond to a request for comment.

CamboJA News’ 2024 investigation is at least the third time waste with Gap, Old Navy or Athleta branding has been found at brick factories in Cambodia. All three brands are owned by Gap Inc. 

Licadho found Gap waste in April 2023, Old Navy waste in May 2023 and Athleta waste in September 2023. Licadho notified Gap Inc. in October 2023 but did not receive a response, according to the NGO. 

In 2019, the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre contacted the company concerning Old Navy waste found by the team of researchers behind the 2018 Blood Bricks report. The company reportedly did not respond to a request for comment. 

Bayern Munich

CamboJA News found waste with Bayern Munich branding at a brick factory in Prey Veng province in February. The football club did not respond to a request for comment.

Adidas creates merchandise for Bayern Munich. CamboJA News found waste with Adidas branding at three different brick kilns, two in Kandal province and one in Prey Veng province. Waste with branding from the football clubs Manchester United and Juventus was also found. Adidas creates merchandise for these two additional teams. 

A Chinese-language document found at a factory in Prey Veng province in February appears to be a garment manufacturing document for a Juventus/Adidas shirt. The paper includes the name for the Chinese clothing manufacturer Shenzhou International Group, owned by billionaire Ma Jianrong, which has customers including Adidas and Nike. 

CamboJA News’ 2024 investigation is at least the second time waste with Adidas branding has been found at brick factories in Cambodia since 2023. Licadho found over 20 items marked with Adidas at two brick factories in 2023.

In an email to CamboJA News, Adidas stated it investigated similar garment waste findings in 2023. In an October 2023 email to Licadho, Adidas said it was investigating Licadho’s findings and would contact the NGO again once the investigations were completed. Adidas did not reach out to Licadho again with the results of its investigation until after CamboJA News asked in May if the company had followed up. 

Adidas told CamboJA News it called on the Cambodian government to improve licensing and control of waste haulage contractors to prevent illegal diversion of waste, as well as to improve labor and environmental enforcement efforts in brick kilns. According to Adidas “the government made a commitment to carry out targeted interventions and improve environmental and labor conditions at the brick kilns.” 

BMW

CamboJA News found waste with BMW branding at a brick factory in Prey Veng province in February. BMW did not respond to a request for comment. 

The BMW waste was found at the same factory as waste with Mercedes and Puma branding. Puma is a brand partner of Mercedes and BMW and produces clothing with Mercedes and BMW branding. CamboJA News found additional waste with Puma branding at a factory in Kandal province.

A Puma spokesperson said in an email that the company “verified” that all of the Cambodian factories producing products for Puma dispose of their waste to “licensed industrial waste collectors.” The company stated that textile waste can leak and be used inappropriately under certain circumstances “beyond the control of the factories and the collectors.” The spokesperson added that two Puma factories are enrolled in a pilot program in partnership with Global Fashion Agenda and GIZ to “learn how to address the challenge of waste management in Cambodia.”

CamboJA News contacted Mercedes-Benz and a spokesperson acknowledged receipt and apologized that the company would not be able to respond with a statement by the deadline. 

C&A

CamboJA News found waste with C&A branding at a brick factory in Kandal province in February. A spokesperson shared the company’s public statement on its waste disposal guidelines which states: if we receive indications of irregularities, we investigate them immediately. 

“C&A strives to ensure compliance to waste disposal regulations across its supply chain. Our local teams have assessed that our relevant factories in the Kandal area are legally compliant, handling and disposing waste via licensed companies,” the spokesperson wrote in an email to CamboJA News.

CamboJA News also found a document labeled TY Fashion (Cambodia) Plc. at the same brick factory. C&A is listed as a customer on TY Fashion’s website. A spokesperson for C&A said that the company stopped working with TY Fashion in 2020.

CamboJA News’ 2024 investigation is at least the second time waste with C&A branding has been found at brick factories in Cambodia. Licadho found waste marked with the C&A branding at a brick factory in May 2023. Licadho notified C&A in October 2023 but has yet to receive a response, according to the NGO. 

CamboJA News previously requested comment from C&A for an article in November regarding Licadho’s 2023 report. The company sent the same statement then, claiming that it investigates immediately if it receives indications of irregularities concerning waste disposal. However, the company has never responded to Licadho, according to the NGO, and did not respond when CamboJA News asked in a follow-up email if the company had in fact investigated Licadho’s findings.

Carter’s  

CamboJA News found waste with Carter’s branding at a brick factory in Kandal province in February. A spokesperson wrote in an email that Carter’s is “not aware that textile waste is being burned by our suppliers in brick kilns and have immediately initiated an investigation with local agents in Cambodia.” 

The company added that it has an established process and enforced standard policy for the destruction and disposal of textiles, which ensures “proper waste management complies with local governmental laws and regulations.” Carter’s policy for destruction and disposal “does not include the burning of textiles,” according to the company.

Cato

CamboJA News found waste with Cato branding at a brick factory in Kandal province in February. 

Steven Michael Staes, senior vice president and chief administrative officer at the Cato Corporation, told CamboJA News that it took the information provided “seriously” and will take appropriate action “to the extent that Cato’s continued investigation reveals that it is necessary.”

He stated that Cato holds its vendors in Cambodia to the “highest standards” and “has contractual arrangements with its vendors, which require their compliance with laws, rules, and regulations, and ethical and responsible processes employed throughout the supply chain.”

Champion 

CamboJA News found waste with Champion branding at a brick factory in Kandal province in April. The brand and its owner company, Hanesbrands, did not respond to a request for comment. 

Authentic Brands Group, which reportedly secured an agreement to purchase Champion in April, also did not respond to a request for comment. Authentic Brands Group owns Reebok. CamboJA News found waste with Reebok branding at a brick factory in Kandal province in February as well. 

CamboJA News’ 2024 investigation is at least the third time waste with Reebok branding has been found at brick factories in Cambodia since 2022. Licadho found waste with Reebok branding at three brick factories in 2023. Licadho notified Reebok in October 2023 but did not receive a response, according to the NGO. 

A 2022 investigation by Unearthed also documented waste with Reebok branding at a brick kiln in Cambodia. Parent company Authentic Brands Group said it had “no knowledge of Reebok products being incinerated in Cambodia. We are investigating these claims to identify whether these are potentially counterfeit products or coming from a third party source.” The company added that it “does not condone this disposal of garment waste to brick kilns.”

Disney

CamboJA News found waste with Disney branding at a brick factory in Kandal province in February. The company did not respond to a request for comment.

CamboJA News’ 2024 investigation is at least the third time waste with Disney branding has been found at brick factories in Cambodia since 2023. A BBC article published in February 2024 reported on Disney-labeled clothing found at a Cambodian brick kiln. In response, a Disney spokesperson said the company was investigating the claim and that it “did not condone the conditions alleged in this situation.”

Licadho found waste marked with the Disney branding or images at three brick factories in 2023. Licadho notified Disney in October 2023 but did not receive a response, according to the NGO. 

Some of the tags with Disney branding found by CamboJA News also included Joe Fresh branding. The two companies have collaborated on clothing featuring Disney characters. In an email, Dave Bauer, director of media relations for Loblaw Companies Limited, which owns Joe Fresh, said the company takes matters like this “very seriously.” Bauer and Joe Fresh director of communications Lauren Adey engaged in an informational call with a CamboJA News reporter regarding the findings. The company did not provide an additional statement in response to CamboJA News’ findings. 

Herschel 

CamboJA News found waste with Herschel branding at a brick factory in Kandal province in February. The company did not respond to a request for comment.

Joe Fresh

CamboJA News found waste with Joe Fresh branding at a brick factory in Kandal province in February. In an email, Dave Bauer, director of media relations for Loblaw Companies Limited, which owns Joe Fresh, said the company takes matters like this “very seriously.” Bauer and Joe Fresh director of communications Lauren Adey engaged in an informational call with a CamboJA News reporter regarding the findings. The company did not provide an additional statement in response to CamboJA News’ findings. 

The tags with Joe Fresh branding also included Disney branding. The two companies have collaborated on clothing featuring Disney characters. Disney did not respond to a request for comment.

CamboJA News’ 2024 investigation is at least the third time waste with Disney branding has been found at brick factories in Cambodia since 2023. A BBC article published in February 2024 reported on Disney-labeled clothing found at a Cambodian brick kiln. In response, a Disney spokesperson said the company was investigating the claim and that it “did not condone the conditions alleged in this situation.”

Licadho found waste marked with the Disney branding or images at three brick factories in 2023. Licadho notified Disney in October 2023 but did not receive a response, according to the NGO. 

Juventus

CamboJA News found what appears to be a garment manufacturing document for a Juventus/Adidas shirt in Prey Veng province in February. The Chinese language document includes the name for the clothing manufacturer Shenzhou International Group, and other waste labeled with the word Shenzhou was also found. The company is owned by billionaire Ma Jianrong and has customers including Adidas and Nike. 

At the same factory waste with Adidas branding and Bayern Munich branding was also found. Adidas produces merchandise for Bayern Munich and Juventus. 

CamboJA News found waste with Adidas branding at three different brick kilns, two in Kandal province and one in Prey Veng province. Waste with Manchester United branding was also found at Kandal factory, another football club Adidas produces merchandise for. 

CamboJA News’ 2024 investigation is at least the second time waste with Adidas branding has been found at brick factories in Cambodia since 2023. Licadho found over 20 items marked with Adidas at two brick factories in 2023.

In an email to CamboJA News, Adidas stated it investigated similar garment waste findings in 2023. In an October 2023 email to Licadho, Adidas said it was investigating Licadho’s findings and would contact the NGO again once the investigations were completed. Adidas did not reach out to Licadho again with the results of its investigation until after CamboJA News asked in May if the company had followed up. 

Adidas told CamboJA News it called on the Cambodian government to improve licensing and control of waste haulage contractors to prevent illegal diversion of waste, as well as to improve labor and environmental enforcement efforts in brick kilns. According to Adidas “the government made a commitment to carry out targeted interventions and improve environmental and labor conditions at the brick kilns.” 

Levi’s

CamboJA News found waste with Levi’s branding at a brick factory in Kandal province in April 2024. The company did not respond to a request for comment. 

Little Co. by Lauren Conrad

CamboJA News found waste with Little Co. by Lauren Conrad branding at a Kandal brick factory in February. The baby goods brand Little Co. by Lauren Conrad is sold at Kohl’s. Kohl’s and Lauren Conrad did not respond to a request for comment.

A representative for the Little Market, a nonprofit co-founded by Lauren Conrad which works to raise awareness about human rights by connecting artisans from underserved communities around the world to larger buyers, said in an email “we are very sorry to hear about this.” The spokesperson stated that the Little Market is not directly affiliated with Little Co. and CamboJA News’ request had been forwarded to a colleague in order to reach a member of the Little Co. team.

CamboJA News also found waste with Apt. 9 and Sonoma Good For Life branding at a different Kandal brick factory in April 2024. Both brands belong to Kohl’s.

Lonsdale 

CamboJA News found waste with Lonsdale branding at a brick factory in Kandal province in February. Frasers Group, the company’s owner, did not respond to a request for comment. 

Lululemon

CamboJA News found waste with Lululemon branding at a brick factory in Kandal province in April. 

In a statement, the company said that all of its manufacturing suppliers are expected to uphold Lululemon’s vendor code of ethics, including strict environmental standards and compliance with all local and national laws and regulations. In an email, it included a link to the American Apparel & Footwear Association’s December 2023 letter calling on the Cambodian government to improve the country’s waste disposal system. Lululemon is a member of the association and the company’s chief supply chain officer, Ted Dagnese, is listed as a past chair on the association’s board of directors. 

CamboJA News’ 2024 investigation is at least the second time waste with Lululemon branding has been found at brick factories in Cambodia. Licadho found waste with Lululemon branding at two brick factories in April and September 2023. In November, in response to Licadho’s findings, Lululemon told the NGO that it was investigating the allegations.

Madewell (J. Crew)

CamboJA News found shoes with Madewell branding at a brick factory in Kandal province in February 2024. The company, owned by J. Crew, said in a statement that it had investigated CamboJA News’ findings and does “not believe the waste identified was from a current supplier.” If it found evidence that a current supplier was violating J. Crew policies, the company said it would “take immediate action.”

The company added that it has a supply code of conduct which includes environmental requirements regarding proper disposal of scraps, and expects its Cambodian suppliers to follow solid waste management laws as outlined by the Cambodian government. 

CamboJA News’ 2024 investigation is at least the second time waste with J. Crew branding has been found at brick factories in Cambodia. In 2019, the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre contacted the company concerning J. Crew waste found by the team of researchers behind the 2018 Blood Bricks report. In a statement, J. Crew said it reviewed the findings, but was “not able to determine on how our garments may have ended up as fire scrap at these local kilns.” It pledged to “verify” that its Cambodian factories are responsibly disposing of waste and only working with legitimate waste collectors in the future. 

Manchester United

CamboJA News found waste with Manchester United branding at a brick factory in Kandal province in April 2024. Merchandise for the football club is produced by Adidas, and additional waste labeled Adidas was found at the same factory. 

Manchester United told CamboJA News it had forwarded the enquiry to “the relevant team” who would be in touch “if this is of interest or if they are in a position to help.” CamboJA News did not receive any further response. 

CamboJA News found additional waste with Adidas branding at two other Kandal brick factories in February 2024. Waste with branding from the football clubs Bayern Munich and Juventus was also found. Adidas creates merchandise for both teams.

A Chinese-language document found at a factory in Prey Veng province in February appears to be a garment manufacturing document for a Juventus/Adidas shirt. The paper includes the name for the Chinese clothing manufacturer Shenzhou International Group, owned by billionaire Ma Jianrong, which has customers including Adidas and Nike. 

CamboJA News’ 2024 investigation is at least the second time waste with Adidas branding has been found at brick factories in Cambodia since 2023. Licadho found over 20 items marked with Adidas at two brick factories in 2023.

In an email to CamboJA News, Adidas stated it investigated similar garment waste findings in 2023. In an October 2023 letter to Licadho, Adidas said it was investigating Licadho’s findings and would contact the NGO again once the investigations were completed. Adidas did not reach out to Licadho again with the results of its investigation until after CamboJA News asked in May if the company had followed up. 

Adidas told CamboJA News it called on the Cambodian government to improve licensing and control of waste haulage contractors to prevent illegal diversion of waste, as well as to improve labor and environmental enforcement efforts in brick kilns. According to Adidas “the government made a commitment to carry out targeted interventions and improve environmental and labor conditions at the brick kilns.” 

Mango

CamboJA News found waste with Mango branding at a brick factory in Kandal province in April 2024. The company did not respond to a request for comment.

Mercedes

CamboJA News found waste with Mercedes branding at a Prey Veng brick factory in February that appears to have the same design as a Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 shirt produced by Puma, a brand partner of Mercedes.

CamboJA News contacted Mercedes-Benz and a spokesperson acknowledged receipt and apologized that the company would not be able to respond with a statement by the deadline. 

The Mercedes waste was found at the same factory as waste with BMW and Puma branding. Puma is also a brand partner of BMW and produces clothing with BMW branding. CamboJA News found additional waste with Puma branding at a factory in Kandal province.

A Puma spokesperson said in an email that the company “verified” that all of the Cambodian factories producing products for Puma dispose of their waste to “licensed industrial waste collectors.” The company stated that textile waste can leak and be used inappropriately under certain circumstances “beyond the control of the factories and the collectors.” The spokesperson added that two Puma factories are enrolled in a pilot program in partnership with Global Fashion Agenda and GIZ to “learn how to address the challenge of waste management in Cambodia.”

MGT Industries

CamboJA News found waste with MGT Industries branding at a brick factory in Kandal province in April. The brand did not respond to a request for comment. 

Modern Moments by Gerber

CamboJA News found waste with Modern Moments by Gerber branding at a brick factory in Kandal province in February 2024. Gerber, owned by Nestle, did not respond to a request for comment.

Modern Moments by Gerber products are sold at Walmart. Blair Cromwell, a director of global communications at Walmart, responded to CamboJA News’ request for comment by asking for photographs and additional information on the factories. CamboJA News provided this, but did not receive any further response from the company. 

CamboJA News also found waste with No Boundaries branding, a clothing line at Walmart, at two brick factories, one in Prey Veng province and one in Kandal province, in February. Waste with 365Kids by Garanimals branding, a line sold at Walmart, was also found at a brick factory in Kandal province in February.

CamboJA News’ 2024 investigation is at least the third time waste with Walmart branding has been found at brick factories in Cambodia since 2018. Licadho found waste marked with the branding of Walmart’s No Boundaries line among garment waste at a brick factory in May 2023.  Licadho notified Walmart in October 2023 but did not receive a response, according to the NGO. Licadho’s report on the industry received international news coverage that specifically mentions findings of Walmart waste, with Walmart featured in the headline of a Reuters article. 

In 2019, the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre contacted the company concerning Walmart waste found by the team of researchers behind the 2018 Blood Bricks report. Walmart responded that it was “committed to responsible sourcing,” adding that “we take your issue seriously and will be sure to elevate it to the appropriate parties.”

Nike

CamboJA News found waste with Nike branding at a brick factory in Kandal province in April 2024. The company did not respond to a request for comment.

CamboJA News’ 2024 investigation is at least the second time waste with Nike branding has been found at brick factories in Cambodia. A 2022 investigation by Unearthed also documented waste with Nike branding at a brick kiln in Cambodia. Nike did not respond to a request for comment, according to Unearthed.

No Boundaries (Walmart)

CamboJA News found waste with No Boundaries branding, a clothing line at Walmart, at two brick factories, one in Prey Veng province and one in Kandal province, in February. Blair Cromwell, a director of global communications at Walmart, responded to CamboJA News’ request for comment by asking for photographs and additional information on the factories. CamboJA News provided this, but did not receive any further response from the company. 

CamboJA News also found waste with Modern Moments by Gerber and 365Kids from Garanimals branding at a brick factory in Kandal province in February 2024. Both clothing lines are sold at Walmart. 

CamboJA News’ 2024 investigation is at least the third time waste with Walmart branding has been found at brick factories in Cambodia since 2018. Licadho found waste marked with the branding of Walmart’s No Boundaries line among garment waste at a brick factory in May 2023.  Licadho notified Walmart in October 2023 but did not receive a response, according to the NGO. Licadho’s report on the industry received international news coverage that specifically mentions findings of Walmart waste, with Walmart featured in the headline of a Reuters article. 

In 2019, the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre contacted the company concerning Walmart waste found by the team of researchers behind the 2018 Blood Bricks report. Walmart responded that it was “committed to responsible sourcing,” adding that “we take your issue seriously and will be sure to elevate it to the appropriate parties.”

Pico Manufacturing

CamboJA News found waste with Pico Manufacturing branding at a factory in Prey Veng province in February. 

Scott Altman, the company’s director of sourcing and compliance, said Pico Manufacturing Sales Corporation would investigate and “advise our findings.” He added that the company has “strict guidelines requiring proper disposal of waste according to all local laws.” If the company’s investigation finds any violation of these laws, it would constitute a breach of its policies and “require remediation or termination of any business transactions.”

Puma

CamboJA News found waste with Puma branding at two factories in Kandal province, and found additional waste with Mercedes and BMW branding. Puma is a brand partner of Mercedes and BMW and produces clothing with Mercedes and BMW branding. 

A Puma spokesperson said in an email that the company “verified” that all of the Cambodian factories producing products for Puma dispose of their waste to “licensed industrial waste collectors.” The company stated that textile waste can leak and be used inappropriately under certain circumstances “beyond the control of the factories and the collectors.” The spokesperson added that two Puma factories are enrolled in a pilot program in partnership with Global Fashion Agenda and GIZ to “learn how to address the challenge of waste management in Cambodia.”

The company said all suppliers must sign a manufacturing agreement that states that garment waste should not be forwarded to third parties to be destroyed. Puma’s environmental handbook stipulates that all waste disposal must meet local legal requirements, the spokesperson added. 

The waste with Mercedes branding appears to have the same design as a Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 shirt produced by Puma. It was found near other pre-consumer garment waste with Puma branding. Puma is listed on the partner’s page of the Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team website. A Mercedes-Benz spokesperson acknowledged receipt and apologized that the company would not be able to respond with a statement by the deadline. 

Ralph Lauren

CamboJA News found waste with Ralph Lauren branding including a QR code that links to Ralph Lauren’s website at a brick factory in Prey Veng province in February. 

In a statement, Ralph Lauren said it was concerned by the allegations presented by CamboJA news and is investigating the issue. The spokesperson added that all of the company’s suppliers are required to adhere to its operation standards, with strict protocols for waste management and environmental compliance.

CamboJA News’ 2024 investigation is at least the second time waste with Ralph Lauren branding has been found at brick factories in Cambodia. A 2022 investigation by Unearthed also documented waste with Ralph Lauren branding at a brick kiln in Cambodia. The outlet connected a Ralph Lauren supplier to a kiln burning garment waste, where a factory order sheet and Polo Ralph Lauren labels were found near garment waste. Ralph Lauren did not respond to multiple requests for comment, according to Unearthed.

Reebok

CamboJA News found waste with Reebok branding at a brick factory in Kandal province in February 2024. The brand’s owner, Authentic Brands Group, did not respond to a request for comment. 

CamboJA News’ 2024 investigation is at least the third time waste with Reebok branding has been found at brick factories in Cambodia since 2022. Licadho found waste with Reebok branding at three brick factories in 2023. Licadho notified Reebok in October 2023 but did not receive a response, according to the NGO. 

A 2022 investigation by Unearthed also documented waste with Reebok branding at a brick kiln in Cambodia. Authentic Brands Group said it had “no knowledge of Reebok products being incinerated in Cambodia. We are investigating these claims to identify whether these are potentially counterfeit products or coming from a third party source.” The company added that it “does not condone this disposal of garment waste to brick kilns.”

Authentic Brands Group reportedly secured an agreement to purchase the brand Champion in April. CamboJA News also found waste with Champion branding at the same Kandal brick kiln where Reebok waste was found in February. 

Salomon (Amer Sports)

CamboJA News found what appears to be a shoe insert with Salomon branding near other shoe insert waste at a brick factory in Kandal province in February. 

Amer Sports, which owns Salomon, told CamboJA News that it conducted an internal investigation that determined that the waste shown in the image “is not from our footwear supplier in Cambodia.” According to Amer Sports, the factory it uses cuts and grinds production waste before it is managed by a waste disposal company. 

The company added that its brands operate in an “ethically, socially, and environmentally responsible manner” following relevant local laws and regulations, international standards and industry best practices. Amer Sports’ business partners “are committed to fair and sustainable business” in line with the company’s Code of Conduct, Ethical Policy and Material Compliance Policy, the spokesperson stated in an email. 

Teddykompaniet

CamboJA News found waste with Teddykompaniet branding at a brick factory in Kandal province in April. The company did not respond to a request for comment.

Tex (Carrefour) 

CamboJA News found waste with Tex branding, a line sold by Carrefour, at a brick factory in Kandal province in February. 

Carrefour said it immediately launched an investigation in response to the findings provided by CamboJA News. In a statement, the companies said it “does not allow” any of its suppliers to burn and destroy textiles, which would be “entirely contrary” to the company’s ethics and corporate social responsibility commitment charter, which requires suppliers to “minimize the impact of their activity on the environment.”

Under Armour

CamboJA News found tags with Under Armour branding at a brick factory in Kandal province in February. The company did not respond to a request for comment.

CamboJA News’ 2024 investigation is at least the second time waste with Under Armour branding has been found at brick factories in Cambodia. Licadho found waste with Under Armour branding at a brick factory in September 2023. Licadho notified the brand in October 2023 but did not receive a response, according to the NGO.

Xhilaration (Target)

CamboJA News found waste with Xhilaration branding, a clothing line at Target, at a brick factory in Kandal province in April. Target did not respond to a request for comment.

Manufacturing and Waste Disposal Companies

Gain Lucky (Vietnam) Ltd. (Shenzhou International Group Holdings Ltd.)

CamboJA News found packaging labeled Gain Lucky (Vietnam) Ltd. as well as packaging and order forms labeled Shenzhou at a brick factory in Prey Veng province. Shenzhou International Group owns Gain Lucky (Vietnam) Ltd. and did not respond to a request for comment.

CamboJA News also found what appears to be a garment manufacturing document for a Juventus/Adidas shirt in Prey Veng province in February. The Chinese language document includes the name Shenzhou International Group. Shenzhou International Group is a Chinese garment manufacturer, owned by billionaire Ma Jianrong, with customers including Adidas and Nike. 

At the same factory, waste with Adidas branding and Bayern Munich branding was also found. Adidas produces clothing merchandise for Bayern Munich and Juventus. CamboJA News found waste with Adidas branding at three different brick kilns, two in Kandal province and one in Prey Veng province. Waste with branding from the football club Manchester United, another football club with merchandise produced by Adidas, was also found at a Kandal factory. 

CamboJA News’ 2024 investigation is at least the second time waste with Adidas branding has been found at brick factories in Cambodia since 2023. Licadho found over 20 items marked with Adidas at two brick factories in 2023.

At the same Prey Veng factory where documents labeled Shenzhou and Gain Lucky (Vietnam) Ltd. were found, a document labeled YKK Vietnam Co., Ltd. was found. A spokesperson for YKK confirmed that the paper was an order sheet for YKK’s fastening products which were sold to a garment manufacturer. 

The spokesperson for YKK Vietnam, which sells zippers and buttons to Cambodian garment manufacturers, said in a statement that the company has “no idea why” its products would be found at a brick factory, adding that “it is simply hard to imagine that fastening products are used in the manufacturing process of bricks.” YKK Vietnam added that, although the company “places the highest priority on human rights of all our stakeholders,” it did not have any information regarding the issue and the company is therefore “irrelevant to this matter.” 

In a follow-up email, CamboJA News notified the company that documents labeled Gain Lucky (Vietnam) Ltd. were also found at the same factory. The YKK Vietnam spokesperson responded that the company has a sales record with Gain Lucky (Vietnam) Ltd., which uses zippers in producing garments. “As such, once again we YKK should be irrelevant to your concern,” the spokesperson wrote. 

L&T International Group Philippines Inc. (Luenthai)

CamboJA News found garment waste in a bag labeled Phils-L&T Clark at a brick factory in Kandal province in February. L&T International Group Philippines Inc. is affiliated with the company Luenthai, which has facilities in the Philippines and Cambodia, among other countries. Luenthai did not respond to a request for comment. 

Nex-T Apparel (Cambodia) Co., Ltd.

CamboJA News found a document labeled Nex-T Apparel (Cambodia) Co., Ltd. near garment waste at a closed-down brick kiln in Kandal province in February. The company did not respond to a request for comment.

Sarom Trading Co. Ltd.

Sarom Trading Co. Ltd is a waste disposal company permitted to handle industrial waste such as garment waste. The company did not respond to a request for comment. CamboJA News asked the company if it is contracted by any of the garment manufacturers listed on documents found at brick kilns, but did not receive a response. 

Shenzhou International Group Holdings Ltd.

CamboJA News found what appears to be a garment manufacturing document for a Juventus/Adidas shirt in Prey Veng province in February. The Chinese language document includes the name for the clothing manufacturer Shenzhou International Group, and other waste labeled with the word Shenzhou and Gain Lucky (Vietnam) Ltd., a company owned by Shenzhou International Group, was also found. 

Shenzhou International Group is a Chinese garment manufacturer, owned by billionaire Ma Jianrong, with customers including Adidas and Nike. Shenzhou International Group did not respond to a request for comment.

At the same factory, waste with Adidas branding and Bayern Munich branding was also found. Adidas produces clothing merchandise for Bayern Munich and Juventus. CamboJA News found waste with Adidas branding at three different brick kilns, two in Kandal province and one in Prey Veng province. Waste with branding from the football club Manchester United, another football club with merchandise produced by Adidas, was also found at a Kandal factory. 

CamboJA News’ 2024 investigation is at least the second time waste with Adidas branding has been found at brick factories in Cambodia since 2023. Licadho found over 20 items marked with Adidas at two brick factories in 2023.

At the same Prey Veng factory where documents labeled Shenzhou and Gain Lucky (Vietnam) Ltd. were found, a document labeled YKK Vietnam Co., Ltd. was found. A spokesperson for YKK confirmed that the paper was an order sheet for YKK’s fastening products which were sold to a garment manufacturer. 

The spokesperson for YKK Vietnam, which sells zippers and buttons to Cambodian garment manufacturers, said in a statement that the company has “no idea why” its products would be found at a brick factory, adding that “it is simply hard to imagine that fastening products are used in the manufacturing process of bricks.” YKK Vietnam added that, although the company “places the highest priority on human rights of all our stakeholders,” it did not have any information regarding the issue and the company is therefore “irrelevant to this matter.” 

In a follow-up email, CamboJA News notified the company that documents labeled Gain Lucky (Vietnam) Ltd. were also found at the same factory. The YKK Vietnam spokesperson responded that the company has a sales record with Gain Lucky (Vietnam) Ltd., which uses zippers in producing garments. “As such, once again we YKK should be irrelevant to your concern,” the spokesperson wrote. 

Sportex Industry Co., Ltd. 

CamboJA News found what appears to be a payslip for a garment worker labeled Sportex Industry Co., Ltd. near garment waste at a brick factory in Kandal province in April. The company did not respond to a request for comment.

TY Fashion (Cambodia) Plc.

CamboJA News found a document labeled TY Fashion (Cambodia) Plc. near garment waste at a brick factory in Kandal province in February. The company did not respond to a request for comment. 

Waste with branding from C&A, And1 and Carter’s was also found at the factory, three companies that are listed as customers on TY Fashion’s website. A spokesperson for C&A said that the company stopped working with TY Fashion in 2020.

YKK Vietnam Co., Ltd.

CamboJA News found a document labeled YKK Vietnam Co., Ltd. along with garment waste at a brick factory in Prey Veng province in February. A spokesperson for the company confirmed that the paper was an order sheet for YKK’s fastening products which were sold to a garment manufacturer. 

The spokesperson for YKK Vietnam, which sells zippers and buttons to Cambodian garment manufacturers, said in a statement that the company has “no idea why” its products would be found at a brick factory, adding that “it is simply hard to imagine that fastening products are used in the manufacturing process of bricks.” YKK Vietnam added that although the company “places the highest priority on human rights of all our stakeholders,” it did not have any information regarding the issue and the company is therefore “irrelevant to this matter.” 

In a follow-up email, CamboJA News notified the company that documents labeled Gain Lucky (Vietnam) Ltd. were also found at the same factory. The YKK Vietnam spokesperson responded that the company has a sales record with Gain Lucky (Vietnam) Ltd., a garment manufacturer who uses zippers in producing garments. “As such, once again we YKK should be irrelevant to your concern,” the spokesperson wrote. 

Industry Associations

American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA)

CamboJA News found waste with branding from American Apparel & Footwear Association members including Levi’s, Target, Gap, Under Armour, Carter’s, Hanesbrands, Lululemon and Ralph Lauren. In December, the trade association called on the Cambodian government to improve its waste disposal system following reports of garment waste fueling kilns. 

In a statement in June, AAFA’s  senior vice president of policy Nate Herman said CamboJA News’ findings “mean we must redouble our efforts with the Cambodian government to address this very serious issue.” He noted that the association has long urged the Cambodian government to do more to stop the illegal use of textile waste by brick kilns.

Textile, Apparel, Footwear & Travel Goods Association in Cambodia (TAFTAC)

CamboJA News found documents with the names of seven garment manufacturers at brick kilns, including TAFTAC members Sportex Industry, YKK Vietnam and Nex-T Apparel (Cambodia). CamboJA News sent TAFTAC photographs taken of these documents at brick factories.

“The pictures of what you sent were simply scrap paper,” TAFTAC ​Secretary-General Ken Loo wrote in an email. “Not sure what other evidence you have to claim that there were garment waste from these factories?” 

In a follow up email, he said that TAFTAC members do not sell garment waste to brick kilns.

“There are several authorized collectors of industrial waste, and we dispose of our waste in accordance with local laws by paying these waste collectors to remove our waste from the factories. How these garment waste then end up at brick kilns is beyond our control,” he wrote. 

Brick factories

Diamond Brick Factory

CamboJA News found small scraps and clothing tags on the ground of Kandal’s Diamond Brick Factory in February. During a follow up visit in April, bags of garment waste were stacked in an enclosed area to the side of the kilns not visible from the entrance.

CamboJA News called company phone numbers listed on a sign at the factory, but the person who answered would not provide the contact information for the company owner and hung up the phone. When contacted in June, the factory manager acknowledged that there was garment waste at the factory when reporters visited in April, but denied that the factory was continuing to burn garment waste.

Duong Eang Brick Factory

CamboJA News found piles of bagged garment waste at Kandal’s Duong Eang Brick Factory in February. In June, a person who said he was the owner was reached by phone, but would not give his name. CamboJA News also reached a woman who said she was the owner’s mother, and said the owner’s name was Huot Seng Heng.

On the phone, the owner said that many other brick factories use garment waste as fuel, and that his factory only gets one truck about every two weeks.

When asked about the harmful effects of burning garment waste on workers’ health, he said “You can ask factories that use a lot of garment waste about it. I do not use it often.” 

Tang Song Brick Factory

CamboJA News found piles of bagged garment waste at Prey Veng’s Tang Song Brick Factory in February. The owner, Tang Song, said the factory has been burning the scraps in addition to wood as a way to save money for the past five years. 

When contacted in June, Song acknowledged that burning garment waste affects workers’ health, but said the factory does not have a choice. 

“We cannot make profit if we use only wood. The wood is so expensive, so we must burn the wood mixed with garment waste,” he said.

Tuy Seang Ay’s Brick Factory

CamboJA News found piles of bagged garment waste at a brick factory in Kandal province owned by Tuy Seang Ay in April. CamboJA News attempted to contact the owner, but only her father Huot Seng, who was the former owner, was able to be reached during a follow-up visit to the factory in June. He said the factory does not have a formal name.

Seng said that provincial and district authorities have warned the factory in the past not to use garment waste because it damages the environment. Authorities issued a warning letter that the brick kiln will be shut down if they continue to use garment waste, according to Seng. Because the brick kiln uses only “a little bit” of garment waste mixed with firewood, he said authorities do not notice the waste when they come to inspect the factory. 

The factory has reduced its use of garment waste to one small truck per month, with a delivery as recent as May, according to Seng. The garment waste is purchased from brokers who buy it from factories in Phnom Penh.

“[The business] does not provide us much income. But because we have sympathy towards our workers that need work, we will not close it down,” Seng said.

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