The Japanese government will provide a $3 million grant to help Cambodia fight marine plastic pollution and promote a responsible cycle of using, reusing and recycling all forms of plastic waste.

The grant will fund an anti-waste project to be implemented by the Ministry of Environment, the National Council for Sustainable Development and UN Development Programme (UNDP), according to a press release after a signing ceremony between Japanese ambassador to Cambodia Masahiro Mikami and UNDP Resident Representative in Cambodia Nick Beresford on November 25.

The project aims to prevent and minimise plastic waste pollution on land and in the oceans through the promotion and application of the 4Rs principle of refuse, reduce, reuse and recycle.

Mikami said marine plastic pollution had become one of the largest environmental crises in the world. He said the Japanese government had launched a new initiative to advance effective action against marine plastic pollution at the G20 Osaka Summit in 2019.

He continued that the volume of global plastic waste had reached 8.3 billion metric tonnes. Each year, 13 million tonnes of plastic reaches the oceans, equivalent to a full rubbish truck every minute. Around 90 per cent of the plastic waste that ends up in the oceans comes from just 10 major rivers, one of which is the Mekong.

Mikami said the biggest problem is that plastic can take hundreds of years to biodegrade.

In marine areas, millions of mammals, fish and birds are killed by ingesting plastic or becoming entangled in plastic materials, according to reports. More than 90 per cent of all birds and fish are reported to have plastic particles in their stomach. In this way, toxic chemicals accumulate and pass through the food chain to humans.

He continued that more than 100 countries, including Cambodia, are introducing new measures for plastic waste. Since 2018, the Cambodian government has promoted the 4Rs framework to reduce the Kingdom’s plastic problem.

Mikami said the new project will develop regulations, raise awareness and reduce plastic waste in target areas. It will also promote recycling and plastic alternatives. Target areas include Phnom Penh and the provinces of Siem Reap, Preah Sihanouk, Kep, Kampot and Koh Kong.

“We believe that this aid can contribute to the environment in Cambodia and help prevent marine plastic pollution further in the future,” Mikami said.

The UNDP’s Beresford said combating plastic pollution was a daunting task but this project would bring about changes that could lead to a green, circular economy.

Environment minister Say Sam Al said reducing plastic waste effectively required a joint effort. He said this project would showcase best practices for reducing plastic waste and could help other ASEAN countries in the fight against marine pollution.

“Cambodia will continue to strive to keep the environment along coastal areas beautiful. The installation of water treatment systems for drinking is to reduce plastic waste and the installation of solar bulbs is to save electricity in schools and public places for the public interest of Preah Sihanouk province,” he said.

Sam Al added that the education and awareness raising were still the most important points, especially changing the attitudes that young people and children have about plastic waste.