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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Is the use of plastic bags affecting our nation’s environment?

Is the use of plastic bags affecting our nation’s environment?

While flooding is affecting Southeast Asian countries, including Cambodia, people are very concerned. It is the worst flooding Cambodia has experienced in a decade.

People can see the climate has changed and the eff-ects of these changes, but they may not know what has caused the climate to change. In my opinion, I would say human daily activities are the biggest explanation.

You may not realise it, but plastic bags are a big problem. These days, plastic bags are used all the time, but in the past, Cambodians used banana or lotus leaves to wrap food and other perishable items.

Tith Chan Dara, a recent graduate student from Department of Media and Communication at the Royal University of Phnom Penh, produced a documentary that he took to the Southeast Asian Student Documentary Awards.

In the documentary it says that “Every year, 500 billion to one trillion plastic bags are being used around the globe . . . this doesn’t even include other types of plastic such as plastic bottles.

“This means the world uses one million plastic bags every minute.”

Keo Sitha, a housewife, says that for her everyday shopping, it is very convenient to use plastic bags while carrying things. She doesn’t need to use use bags like before.

“I can separate my small items by using plastic bags. It is very convenient and cheap.” Sitha says. “Even if I bring my own bag with me, the vendors still put things in plastic bags for me.”

When there is rain, particularly a heavy downpour, we can often see drains overflowing on some of the main roads in the city with plastic bags floating in the water. Plastic bags often block the entrance to the drains which causes the drains to become blocked.

The overuse of plastic bags also affects the environment and human life itself. When we bury a plastic bag it takes up to thousand years to rot because plastic bags decompose so slowly. Also, they block air and water circulation in the soil.

We could just burn the plastic bags. However, because of chemicals present in the in the smoke particles, our stomachs, lungs and eyes can be affected if we breathe it in. It can cause serious problems for children and pregnant women. Also, when the smoke gets into the atmosphere, it can damage the environment in the form of acid rain.

Someone who knows about the issue of plastic bags is San Vibol, an environmental lecturer and researcher at the Royal University of Phnom Penh. He recommends that people should follow these steps.

“First, people must reduce their use of plastic bags as much as possible. They should not use too many plastic bags. Second, recycle them. We can convert plastic bags into another plastic product,” San Vibol says.

In Western countries and  some Asian countries such  as India, they produce and use paper bags instead of plastic bags.

People in Kolkata, a city in India, use paper bags for items such as sweets, biscuits and cosmetics.

In Malaysia, the government encourages the people to use paper bags by holding regular environment days.

When people buy something, they must put their purchases in their own bags and, if they need a plastic bag, they are required to buy one. Also, many of the bags are environmentally friendly.

So, to ensure a life without climate change, global warming and tragic dis-asters, why don’t we take  action by reducing the amount of plastic bags we use?



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