Naga Earth

Sustainable Supply

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Location: Siem Reap, Cambodia

Sector: Manufacture – Transformation

Date of creation: 2008

Date of analysis: June 2019

Project maturity: Mature and lasting

Naga Earth is a social enterprise that carries out many projects for the community of Siem Reap, including the production of biodiesel from used cooking oil!


Naga Earth was created in 2008. The project was originally an association founded by 5 NGOs in Laos and financed by a Californian company. The first project set up by the association was the creation of the biodiesel industry, which quickly grew to become financially independent in 2010.Then, the status of the company changed and Naga Earth became a “social enterprise”. With the fall in diesel prices, it was necessary to diversify the projects and this was an opportunity for the company to innovate: offering soaps in returnable containers, launching a public hygiene program by distributing free soaps, crushing glass bottles to make sand for water filtration and cement, creating a plastic recycling system and organizing collaborative workshops.

  • 4 full-time employees, 5 volunteers and 6 sustainable projects 

  • 5000L of biodiesel produced each month ;

  •  Maximum capacity of 10.000L of oil, producing 9000L of biodiesel ;

  • Provides biodiesel to 25 to 30 local businesses

  • Recycling
  • Sustainable supply
  • Responsible consumption

project operation

Biodiesel is an alternative fuel made from recycled vegetable oils. Naga Earth created a partnership with restaurants in the city, including the Angkor W restaurant, which buys used cooking oil from a dozen nearby establishments, before transforming it into biodiesel.
The latter is formed from the transesterification reaction between the oil and an alcohol, a reaction catalysed by potassium hydroxide. It can be used by all vehicles that use conventional diesel and is distributed at collection points in Siem Reap town. The chemical process creates a co-product, glycerine, which is also reused, and by incorporating it into a saponification process, Naga Earth produces soap that is sold in returnable packaging!

sustainable approach

Biodiesel has always faced the controversy that it would compete with food production by taking over agricultural land. However, this is no longer an issue. In fact, the main component is used cooking oil from restaurants.

A study conducted by Ying Mongtoeun (A Study of waste cooking oil in Phnom Penh) showed that in the capital, the main ingredient is used cooking oil from restaurants:
– sold to other restaurants for reuse (38%)
– discharged into sewers (29%)
– thrown into garbage cans (16%)
– sold to recycling companies (13%)
– or other (4%).

However, the “sewers” in Cambodia are in fact canals that empty 80% of their contenance into lakes near the cities without treatment  especially in Phnom Penh, the capital. In Siem Ream, 400 tons of waste are produced every day.
Naga Earth, on its scale, can capture some of this waste and the transformation process can recover a maximum of 10,000 litres of cooking oil per month.

Most of cambodian food is made using frying oil. Huge amounts are therefore consumed, and to save it, many restaurants reuse it several times. However, this leads to health problems due to the increasing amount of saturated fatty acids appearing with each cooking. In addition, there is little knowledge on the part of restaurant owners on how to manage waste cooking oil (source: A Study of Waste Cooking Oil in Phnom Penh, Cambodia). It is in order to manage this twofold problem, environmental and public health, that Naga Earth has launched the production of biodiesel. Finally, the production of soap from glycerine, the co-product of the process, has enabled Naga Earth to launch a public hygiene movement, especially among the youngest members of the community.

Replicability & future developments

The project is financially autonomous and viable because it is based on the same prices as the diesel market; The resource from which biodiesel is produced is abundant in the area where the project is located; The project is nevertheless very sensitive to an external factor: the price of oil.It was therefore necessary to diversify the activity in order to resist financially in the event of a fall in prices.

The goal is to increase biodiesel production by 60%, from 8000L to 13-14000L. In addition, Naga Earth wishes to extend its action to other cities and particularly to Phnom Penh, as well as to offer its services in a relocatable way for companies.

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