Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Cambodia faces plastic woes

Cambodia faces plastic woes

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Plastic waste is a common concern all over the world, including in Cambodia. Hean Rangsey

Cambodia faces plastic woes

The Ministry of Environment and several non-governmental organisations (NGOs) working on environmental issues in Cambodia have expressed concern over the growing amount of plastic waste in Cambodia’s waterways, as many fishermen are now complaining that they have caught more rubbish than fish over the past five years.

Ministry spokesman Neth Pheaktra told The Post that plastic waste was of common concern all over the world, including in Cambodia.

An analysis of the global consumption trends of plastic products indicates that plastic waste will increase from 400 million tonnes per year to 600 million tonnes by 2025. Barring some drastic government intervention or change in policy regarding plastic products, Cambodia will have to deal with its share of this increase.

Pheaktra said disposal of plastic waste into bodies of water had become a serious issue in Cambodia and solving this problem will require commitment from all stakeholders. Long-term damage could be done to Cambodia’s waters if plastic continues to accumulate there.

“Disposal of rubbish into water sources not only harms the environment, but also the biodiversity of life within the water. At this point, we have disseminated education and guidance to the people,” he said.

While the problem of plastic waste will be a challenge, Pheaktra said the most important factors in overcoming it will be educating people to implement proper waste management practices, encouraging waste recycling and getting people to reduce their use of plastics.

“The practice of separating different kinds of rubbish at home and at work is a necessary step to be able to efficiently recycle plastic waste. We know that plastic waste does not decompose easily, but when it does decompose it still has a significant impact on the environment [as micro-plastic particles]. We must strengthen measures to limit the use of plastic and the importation of unnecessary plastic,” he said.

According to the UN Development Program (UNDP), 80 per cent of the rubbish found on Cambodia’s coast consists of plastic waste. The organisation is concerned that plastic waste will have a serious impact on the coastal environment, not only destroying its beauty but also its ecology and biodiversity.

UNDP Resident Representative Nick Beresford said: “Cambodia is not a major producer of plastic products and most plastic items are imported. At the same time, Cambodia does not yet have adequate infrastructure or sufficiently advanced technologies for waste management and recycling.

“Action is required to reduce the volume of plastic waste in Cambodia and to better manage, recycle or reuse it. First, the import and sale of single-use plastic can be more strictly regulated and we all need to significantly cut down on our use of single-use plastic and adopt sustainable alternatives.”

In its Facebook post on December 8, the nature conservation organisation Wonders of the Mekong said there seems to be far fewer fish in the water in recent years – a contrast to an old Cambodian saying that has been repeated for generations: “Where there is water, there are fish.”

“There are many kinds of rubbish that fishermen catch from the river now, but not many fish. As the population grows, so does the amount of rubbish, especially plastic waste,” the organisation said.

It explained that one reason that so much rubbish ends up in the water is the presence of many families living along the banks of the rivers and lakes who toss it in the water to dispose of it.

The residents, it said, may not be aware that the rubbish they dispose of in the river daily mostly sinks to the bottom of the river, eventually killing the fish that every Cambodian has traditionally relied on as one of the nation’s primary sources of food.

The organisation also posted several photos taken from the Tonle Sap River in Prek Ta Sek commune in Phnom Penh’s Chroy Changvar district, showing some of the rubbish pulled by fishermen from the river that had already managed to entangle and kill fish.

Wonders of the Mekong implored people living near bodies of water to stop using the water as a rubbish dump.

“Please consider choosing other options, such as keeping rubbish in the house before the rubbish collection agency collects it.

“We can all be part of the solution to these problems. We can work together to keep our rivers healthy and ensure a sustainable source of high-protein food [fish] for the future,” it said.

However, according to Pheaktra, recycling rubbish in Cambodia today is still problematic because the country does not have the necessary recycling facilities and currently could only recycle 10 per cent of its total recyclable waste output.


  • Purging Sihanoukville’s past with a new masterplan

    Amid illicit activities, haphazard development and abandoned projects, the coastal city of Sihanouk province needs a reset to move forward. A new masterplan might be the answer to shake off its seemingly mucky image to become the Shenzhen of the south Gun toting, shootouts, police

  • Chinese may be first in tourism revival: PM

    Cambodia's tourism industry is gearing up to roll out the red carpet for Chinese travellers after Prime Minister Hun Sen on September 17 indicated that the Kingdom could soon throw open its doors to international holidaymakers vaccinated against Covid-19 – starting with guests from China. Cambodia Chinese

  • Airline says ready for green light to reopen international tourism

    Sky Angkor Airline Co Ltd on September 21 said it is ready to transport South Korean and Chinese tourists to the Kingdom once the Cambodian government makes good on plans to reopen its borders to vaccinated travellers. The Siem Reap-based airline made the remark during a

  • Four-pillar approach in reopening of tourism: PM

    Cambodia is drawing up a four-strategy approach to promptly restore domestic and international tourism activity and put the industry on a transition pathway to a sustainable and inclusive model that is resistant to future crises, according to Prime Minister Hun Sen. The prime minister made

  • Tourism concerns laid bare

    To ensure the success of plans to reopen the tourism market for international visitors, Cambodia must pay utmost attention to two primary determinants – the ongoing paradigm shift in domestic tourism services towards the ‘new normal’, and the factors influencing choices of destinations among foreign holidaymakers.

  • Cambodian bride ‘badly treated, held captive’ by Chinese man seeks help

    A Cambodian woman who travelled to China to marry a Chinese man there was “badly treated” by her husband’s family and then had to be rescued and will be returned to Cambodia to ensure her safety. The rescue operation came about after the 25-year-old