New Minister of Environment Eang Sophalleth has announced the launch of a campaign to reduce the use of plastic bags in schools. He called for the Kingdom’s students to participate in the campaign, for the sake of environmental cleanliness.

The campaign kicked off on September 1, initially in 44 schools – with a total of more than 18,000 students – across Tbong Khmum province’s O’Reang-ou district.

“Please join us in protecting the purity of our environment. I want to congratulate Hun Sen Tuol Sophy Secondary School for their commitment to not using plastic bags at all,” wrote Sophalleth, in a September 2 social media post.

He shared a short video of several students from the school committing to the campaign, and announcing that they would no longer use plastic bags at all.

Hour Chhai Ngorn, founder an environmental group ‘Creal Cambodia’, believed the launch of a campaign to reduce plastic use in schools is an excellent idea, and hoped the strategy would be successful.

He suggested that to strengthen the message of the campaign, pertinent institutions should provide additional information or produce explanatory videos that will enable students to understand the true impact of plastic waste.

“If students are simply instructed not to use plastic, I am sure they will follow through. However, a more meaningful explanation of the negative effects of using plastic – whether through videos or other content – may improve their commitment. Overall, I support the project 100 per cent. It is a good thing the ministry is doing,” he said.

Hong Vannak, an economist at the Royal Academy of Cambodia’s Institute of International Relations, noted that plastic waste and other rubbish affects public health and water resources.

“Dealing with this very important task requires urgent joint intervention by both Cambodia and the international community. If plastic waste and trash are not stored properly, they can endanger the health of people, the environment, biodiversity, the family economy, and the nation,” he said.

According to the environment ministry, Cambodia produces nearly 4 million tonnes of garbage a year, which means more than 30,000 tonnes of garbage are generated per day throughout the Kingdom. In Phnom Penh alone, more than 3,500 tonnes of waste is created each day, almost 20 per cent of which is plastic.

The ministry offered advice on how people can reduce their use of plastic. It suggested that people switch from disposable straws to ones made from paper, metal or wood, and recommended that reusable water bottles be employed.

It added that reusable toiletry bottles were a good idea, as well as reusable cups, glasses and plates. It also suggested that takeaway food should be packaged in biodegradable packaging.

The ministry also offered potential economic strategies that could be used, such as charging more for plastic packaging, or offering a discount to people who brought reusable cups or containers.