Plastic bottles and bags, notorious for their non-biodegradable nature, have long posed a threat to our environment, whether littered on the ground, buried or afloat in water. Yet amidst this challenge, one man has emerged as a beacon of hope.

Meet Nget Ngorn, a dedicated individual who single-handedly gathers plastic bottle waste, amassing an astonishing 100 to 150 tons each month. What’s more inspiring is how he transforms this waste into a valuable resource, driving positive change within his community.

Undeterred by the absence of modern machinery and relying on semi-automatic devices, Ngorn remains steadfast in his environmental mission. Fueled by his passion for the planet, he stands resolute in his commitment to collecting plastic bottle waste, along with an assorted mix of plastic refuse, all destined for recycling and repurposing.

At 48 years old, Ngorn shares his life with four daughters, the eldest of whom is 22. They live in O’Chamnar village in O’Oknha Heng commune, within the Prey Nop district of Preah Sihanouk province.

In his earlier days, before embarking on his plastic waste journey, Ngorn engaged in transporting rice between Sihanoukville and Koh Kong province, occasionally crossing into Thailand. During these travels, the sight of litter, especially plastic bottles, strewn along the streets and drifting in Prey Nop district’s streams, struck a chord.

Recognising the potential harm these materials could inflict on the oceans, he conceived the idea of establishing a plastic bottle waste recycling enterprise. In 2022, he turned this vision into reality.

“Seeing mounds of plastic waste in my village, the sight of it adrift in the streams and learning that it could eventually flow into the ocean where it stays forever due to its non-biodegradable nature, I was driven to find a solution. This solution, in the form of a waste recycling business, not only tackles the problem but also contributes to our environment,” Ngorn explained.

Through his plastic recycling venture, Ngorn has provided jobs for ten villagers, creating a positive ripple effect in the community. Local residents contribute by collecting plastic bottle waste, which Ngorn conveniently collects in specially placed bags at schools and commune halls.

In some instances, even teachers participate directly by delivering the collected plastic to his facility. The outcome has been striking: the streets and schools exhibit newfound cleanliness, with a noticeable decline in discarded plastic bottles and cans.

Ngorn’s approach is inclusive. He acquires plastic bottles of all kinds, whether new, aged, or caked with mud. As long as these bottles make their way to him for purchase, they are candidates for transformation.

Ngorn uses a washing machine to clean dirt from the bottles which are then broken down into small pieces. After this stage, the fragments undergo a drying process, ultimately culminating in the creation of the final recycled product.

While there exists equipment capable of grinding these small plastic pieces into even finer particles, Ngorn’s current machinery lacks this capability. Nonetheless, he sells these plastic pieces to buyers in Phnom Penh, who then export them abroad in containers.

Ngorn expressed his need for a grinding machine, a tool that would facilitate the export of plastic pieces to Vietnam. Despite this challenge, he remains open to collaboration, all the while persisting in his plastic waste collection efforts and contributing to environmental conservation across various regions in Sihanoukville. His work spans from collecting waste in Prey Nop district to the heart of Sihanoukville town.

While Samuth Sothearith, director of the Provincial Department of Environment, could not be reached for further information, Kao Leng, Chief of O’Oknha Heng commune, hails Ngorn’s work.

“Ngorn’s recycling initiative aids our environment and society, curbing plastic waste that endangers both health and nature,” Leng said.

“Regardless of whether plastic waste is buried or mixed with other refuse, its persistence poses a challenge. Moreover, burning plastic waste releases toxic fumes detrimental to human health.

“His recycling efforts create a market; where there’s a market, people collect and sell plastic waste. He’s not only aiding waste reduction but also playing a pivotal role in preserving our local environment,” Leng said of Ngorn’s contribution.

Ngorn’s story serves as a heartening testament to the power of an individual’s dedication to fostering change. Through his unwavering commitment, he reminds us all that even in the face of seemingly insurmountable challenges, the impact of a single person’s determination can resonate far and wide, creating a brighter, cleaner future for generations to come.