Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - New campaign will fight plastic bag blight

New campaign will fight plastic bag blight

A shop vendor hands over a plastic bag of goods at a market in central Phnom Penh yesterday. UNESCO, in partnership with the government, will launch an education campaign on Friday to reduce the use of plastic bags in the Kingdom.
A shop vendor hands over a plastic bag of goods at a market in central Phnom Penh yesterday. UNESCO, in partnership with the government, will launch an education campaign on Friday to reduce the use of plastic bags in the Kingdom. Pha Lina

New campaign will fight plastic bag blight

UNESCO and the ministries of Tourism and Environment this weekend will launch a campaign aimed at ridding the capital of the plastic waste currently choking its waterways and piling up in its landfills.

The campaign, starting on Friday, will seek to educate Cambodians about how to cut down on plastic waste, which also kills wildlife and persists in the environment for thousands of years.

After an information session at Wat Botum at 7:30am, event partners and volunteers will hit the streets to collect plastic rubbish along the riverside and near the Royal Palace.

“It starts with us,” said Eang Siphan, the governor of Chbar Ampov district. “The authorities always have to educate people to divide rubbish and plastic that could affect the environment.”

Vin Spoann, a research adviser at the Royal University of Phnom Penh, said that plastic bags comprise a quarter of the material that blocks urban water drainage pipes.

Burning bags poison the air and create health hazards, while wildlife can choke or become sick when interacting with plastic bags, he added.

Plastic bags are also unsightly and hurt tourism, he said. Spoann’s surveys of tourists revealed that a majority would rather pay more money if it meant a reduction in plastic waste on the streets.

According to Spoann, an effective policy must involve public education campaigns, as well as a bit of both carrot and stick.

“We have two ways to push supermarkets and consumers to use eco-[friendly] bags,” he said. “Give certificates to supermarkets to give them incentives, and introduce regulations on plastic bags.”

Cambodia lacks binding policies on plastic waste management, Spoann said, but the capital’s Environmental Department is working with RUPP researchers, the Italian organisation ACRA and private consultants to create policy recommendations by 2017.

Yim Mongtoeun, another researcher at the Royal University of Phnom Penh, said that he had been reviewing different countries’ strategy for plastic reduction.

He said that bans and surcharges have been successful in parts of Australia, Taiwan, Bangladesh and Hong Kong. They were less successful in some other countries, due to insufficient public education, he said.

“It’s not easy, because plastic bags are very popular right now,” he said. “Maybe [charging for the bags] would work if it’s paired with education.”

Several major retail centres are getting on board with plastic reduction, though they say they can’t do it alone. Nguon Sambath, the manager of Thai Huot Market, which is participating in UNESCO’s upcoming event, said that changing consumer behaviour is the toughest challenge. “We cannot go against our clients,” he said.

He said that it’s tough for stores to unilaterally charge for bags, because customers will flock to their competitors instead. A policy that all stores have to abide by would level the playing field.

Spoann said that any ban or surcharge will have its limitations. While it will be easy to enforce for big supermarkets, it would be significantly more challenging to get smaller vendors across Cambodia to follow suit.

Sin Sopheavy, a vendor at Kandal Market, said that local authorities have told sellers not to use plastic bags, but it’s difficult to comply due to customer demand. “My customers need a package for the food.

We still use plastic. There are no [alternatives] to package goods as easily as plastic.”

MOST VIEWED

  • Reports: Rainsy barred from Jakarta flight

    Sam Rainsy was on Wednesday refused entry to a flight from Malaysia to Indonesia, media reported late on Wednesday. The “acting president” of the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party’s announced return to the Kingdom on Independence Day on Saturday failed to occur. Rainsy

  • Government studying EU’s preliminary report on EBA

    The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation on Wednesday said the government was studying the EU Commission’s preliminary report on the human rights situation in the Kingdom that could lead to a suspension of access to its “Everything But Arms” (EBA) agreement. The

  • Gov’t: Rainsy’s ‘coup plot’ a failure

    The government on Wednesday commended the Kingdom’s security forces for thwarting the attempted “coup plot” by former opposition leader Sam Rainsy through his announced return to Cambodia on November 9. The comments came as Rainsy, the “acting president” of the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue

  • Rainsy blocked from boarding flight to Jakarta

    Sam Rainsy was on Wednesday refused entry to a flight from Malaysia to Indonesia, media reported late on Wednesday. The "acting president" of the Cambodia National Rescue Party's announced return to the Kingdom on Independence Day on Saturday failed to occur. Rainsy arrived in Kuala

  • Tour guides question animal release ban in Angkor moat

    The Khmer Angkor Tour Guide Association (Katga) called on the Apsara National Authority to reconsider its decision banning all animals from being released into the moat surrounding the Angkor Wat temple after the authority prohibited the action for the sake of visitors’ safety. An Apsara

  • Kingdom to import 200MW from Lao hydropower plant

    Cambodia plans to import 200MW of electricity from Laos’ Don Sahong hydropower plant early next year to curb power shortages this coming dry season, with the transmission line network scheduled for completion later this year, Ministry of Mines and Energy spokesman Victor Jona said. Jona,