The Ministry of Environment is preparing to launch two new public campaigns: “Cambodia Sa’at (beautiful) and Khmer can do” on May 15, and ‘Ponlok Baitong’ (the sprouting of green seedlings) in July.  

This week’s campaign will see members of the public encouraged to spend 15 minutes every Saturday cleaning up their local environment.

The new initiatives will support the “Today I Will Not Use Plastic” campaign, which was launched on September 1 last year and has reportedly reached more than half of the Kingdom’s population.

“This shows that Cambodia is committed to the correct use and disposal of plastic bags, rather than throwing them away incorrectly,” said Minister of Environment Eang Sophalleth.

Ministry spokesperson Khvay Atitya explained that the “Cambodia Sa’at and Khmer can do” campaign is phase two of the “Today I Will Not Use Plastic” campaign.

“We each village, commune, district and province to lead people to pick up rubbish in public places and around their homes for 15 minutes every Saturday, so that their places are gradually clean and free from plastic waste and garbage,” he said.

Even ahead of the launch, thousands of people have participated in community clean-ups, with tonnes of trash removed.

Some 1,600 students, teachers, monks, youth and other community members in Tbong Khmum province's Ou Raing Ov district picked up garbage around their homes, schools, pagodas and other places in 14 villages late last week. Some two tonnes of plastic waste was collected, according to the ministry.

In Phnom Penh, approximately 10 million plastic bags are used daily, with the average Cambodian city-dweller consuming over 2,000 plastic bags each year, according to Fauna & Flora International’s Cambodia Program. 

In addition to the “Sa’at campaign, the ministry is planning a seedling promotion and distribution exhibition from July 10-16, under the “Ponlok Baitong” banner. Over one million saplings will be shared free of charge for people to plant at their homes, schools, pagodas, public places and private sites. 

The campaign aims to inspire children to grow trees to expand forest cover for a carbon-neutral Cambodia. 

Sophalleth shared a vision of one million students holding one million trees and planting them at the same time.

“It is my dream and I will try to make it true. When we achieve the feat of one million students planting one million trees in a single day, I will press to jump to two or even three million saplings! I believe that we can do it. It is not difficult,” he said, via a video posted to the ministry’s social media.

He also explained why the campaign was aimed at students and young people.

“[We] do it to cultivate the mindset of greenness and cleanness to the next generation. If they learn to love a clean, green Cambodia when they are young, then they will pass this on to their own children and grandchildren,” he said.

The minister offered an example of this concept, noting that if he grows a tree and tells his children he planted it, they will not log it, but will take care of it.

“If students and other young people plant trees now, when they and the tree grow, they will not cut it down. They will love and take care of it. What we are doing is cultivating a clean, green mindset towards a brighter future,” he said.

Lover Environment and Society Association director Chum Huot was optimistic that the campaigns will be even more successful than the previous ones because people are more aware of environmental issues.

“These campaigns show the willingness and heart of the people to participate. The campaigns are widely supported,” he said.