The BambooShoot Foundation is looking for companies, philanthropists or business associations that will exchange more than 10 tonnes of plastic waste from the Tonle Sap Lake for 3.5 tonnes of rice. The NGO wants to use the rice to reward the 350 families from Peam Ta Or village who collected the garbage.

BambooShoot director Sea Sophal told The Post on April 5 that the collection had made a significant contribution to preserving the biodiversity of the lake, but said there was work to do.

“The inhabitants of Peam Ta Or, a floating village which is part of the Me Chrey community, worked hard to skim plastic from the surface of the lake, as well as clearing up sections of flooded forest and the canals along the banks of the lake,” he said.

“The warehouse where we store the collected waste is new, so we are calling on people to help the Tonle Sap community by buying the waste so we can purchase rice for the families that worked so hard to collect it,” he said.

“In addition to 3.5 tonnes of rice, we need to buy 2,500 bags to collect more plastic in. This needs to happen before the Tonle Sap River begins to fill the lake again in June,” he added.

Sophal also announced that the NGO – with the help of Puok district authorities and partner organisations – plans to join the Ministry of Tourism’s 11th Clean City Day, which will be celebrated on April 8, ahead of Khmer New Year and the May SEA Games.

“The Tonle Sap has receded, so it’s the perfect time to clean up. More than 500 people are expected to join our clean-up programme this Saturday [April 7], which will recover plastic and solid waste from Tonle Sap to the west of Peam Ta Or village,” he said.

Sam Chhoeuy, Me Chrey community coordinator, told The Post that plastic waste remained in rivers and flooded forest areas even during the low water season, despite continuous collection activities.

“If the community wasn’t collecting it, there would be even more. That is why we need to keep our activities going,” he explained.

As the team lacks resources, like bags and transport, Chhoeuy called on people across the country to support them as much as they could.

“Daily living is difficult for the villagers and residents who dwell on and around Tonle Sap. They make their livings as fishermen, but their sales are poor. The 10 to 15 most successful households earn around 50,000 riel [$12.50] a day, which is not a lot. The majority earn around 10,000 riel a day,” he said.

“To encourage them to collect garbage, we need to provide them with incentives, like rice,” he added.