Koh Kong provincial authorities have chosen four key locations where they will erect billboards explaining the idea of “Plastic-free Zones” to educate the public on the prevention and reduction of plastic use.

Deputy provincial governor Sok Sothy said in a May 24 meeting that the four locations were chosen after a thorough review.

The first location will be at Chi Phat – a community-based eco-tourism site – and the second will be placed in the Areng eco-community. The third and fourth will be in the Nature Tourism Community of Tatai and the Pak Khlang Pagoda compound.

The signs aim to change people’s attitudes away from using an excessive amount of plastic. Ideally, people will begin to use items that are not harmful to the environment, or ones that can be recycled, he said. The banners also explain to people why they should not dispose of plastic waste in bodies of water – especially the ocean.

The billboards will reawaken their love for the cleanliness of natural packaging and recycled items that are not harmful to the environment, he added, offering the example of food wrapped in banana or lotus leaves.

“We will not put too much text on the banners. We will state that there should be no plastics used in the four locations and put a cross through a picture of plastic bags. We will put large ticks next to items that don’t harm the environment – and on recyclables,” he said, adding that more signs will be erected down the road.

Provincial environment department director Hun Marady could not be reached for comment on May 25.

Heng Yonkora, executive director of the Community Sanitation and Recycling Organisation, said he hoped the signs would help tourists understand the issue more clearly. He also hoped they would lead to a decrease in the amount of plastic items that were used on a daily basis, as well as the amount that ended up in the rivers and the sea.

“The more banners we put up, the more local people – and tourists – will learn. When they become aware of how badly the problem affects their health, they will reduce plastic use, especially food vendors. Ideally, they will stop using styrofoam boxes and turn to the use of straw boxes, banana leaves or bagasse boxes. These are all good options, because when they are thrown away after use, they break down naturally,” he said.

He did acknowledge, however, that the signage alone may not be enough to change everyone’s mindset. Some people might notice them, but not take the time to understand them, he said, so provincial authorities should be looking for more ways to explain the negative impact of too much plastic use.