It is not uncommon for consumers to want better and easier products or services, but some convenience-oriented products are causing environmental damage that may prove to be far more expensive to fix than the time or money saved by using them.

One example is the dramatic increase in the use of disposable plastic bags. Today, when purchasing most items, no matter how large or small, it is packed into a plastic bag even though recycling of these bags is either non-existent or extremely limited.

One 60-year-old man, Chan Narith, a resident of Cheyou commune of Kampong Cham province’s Chamkar Leu district, sees the processing of plastic bags as a business opportunity because of the widespread nature of the problem.

“Personally, I think there are not many people doing this business in our country, so it is easier to sell a service or product with a wide-open market. Recycling these bags will help Cambodia solve its rubbish problem. When I was a farmer, it was difficult as even out in our fields we’d find plastic waste because the bags would fly in the air and we saw them everywhere on the ground,” he said.

Narith decided he needed more technical know-how on the subject, so he went back to school in Dangkor district in Phnom Penh to learn the details of the recycling industry.

“I have been studying for two months, but I have not finished yet. The machine we’re using can only recycle plastic bags and sacks. You grind them into small pieces and resell it to others for use as a raw material again,” he said,

Regarding the procurement of plastic raw materials, Narith said he has been collecting bags and sacks since June 2022.

“They sell them directly to me at my place according to market prices. I buy them at between 350 and 400 riel per kg [$0.087 and $0.10] if they are dry and not very dirty,” he said. “Please do not throw away plastic bags in public spaces, just put them into sacks after sorting them according to the type of plastic and I will buy them,” he said.

He also expressed concerns that some consumers did not understand the process and they still buried plastic in the ground that could be harmful to the environment.

Plastics have become a major concern for the world today, as more than 400 million tonnes of plastic are disposed of each year.

In Cambodia, according to Ministry of Environment spokesman Neth Pheaktra, there are more than 10,000 tonnes of rubbish generated each day, or over four million tonnes per year – with 65 to 68 per cent being organic waste, 10 per cent solid waste and 20 per cent plastic waste.