The Ministry of Environment is pushing for greater public awareness about the need to reduce plastic waste as well as to dispose of all waste properly and avoid littering, while those working at NGOs focused on the issue express concerns about the lack of understanding on the topic.

At a workshop on the implementation of the policy for “reducing plastic products use in the short term and strengthening plastic waste management”, Eang Sophalleth, secretary of state for the environment ministry, stated that reducing plastic use is an important factor in protecting the environment for the future.

“Participating in reducing plastic use is a movement to save lives and help the environment affected by plastic waste.

“Cambodians are using 16 million plastic bags per day and we must push for the use of non-plastic alternatives by consumers,” he said.

Sophalleth said the implementation of this policy measure is a new step toward contributing to protecting the environment as well as a step towards developing a comprehensive policy to reduce use of plastic products and strengthen plastic waste management in line with the “Urban Solid Waste Management Policy 2020-2030”.

The workshop, organised by the ministry, was attended by the ministry’s leaders, inter-ministerial officials, partner organisations, capital and provincial administrations and the private sector.

Pak Sokharavuth, director-general of the ministry’s General Department of Environmental Protection, said plastic posed great challenges and required immediate solutions, including solutions for reducing use of plastic bags and products for food and beverage services.

Nou Sovann, executive director of River Ocean Cleanup, an NGO that actively works on cleaning plastic bags up along Cambodia’s rivers, said plastic bags were a concern, but reflected a general attitude from the public about littering that was having a bad impact on the environment.

“I am very concerned, especially about the plastic waste that is being dumped in the open, along the river’s banks and streams, on the beach and into the sea, which has a serious impact on nature that humans and animals depend on,” he said.

According to Sophalleth, preparing and implementing this measure requires participation from all stakeholders, including state institutions, the private sector, development partners and civil society, and especially the general public in order to achieve a high efficiency and effective result.

As of 2015, there were a total of 8.3 billion tonnes of plastic products in the world with more than 400 million more tonnes of plastic products produced every year, and only nine per cent of plastic waste being recycled, according to Chea Sina, undersecretary of state at the environment ministry.