The local non-profit organisation iDE Cambodia has launched an innovative pilot project targeting the collection of plastic bottles from schools in the Tonle Sap Lake area.

This initiative kicked off in May, designed to curtail the unchecked disposal of plastic bottles in the environment, appeals especially to those living in the region surrounding the lake, encouraging them to join the effort.

The implementation of this pilot project is underpinned by the support of Save the Children Cambodia and is funded by the EU.

The funding is part of a broader environmental project named Generating Resilient Environments and Promoting Socio-Economic Development of the East Tonle Sap Lake Areas (GREEN).

The ambition of this project is to counter plastic pollution and contribute to the preservation of the Tonle Sap’s health.

The premise of collecting plastic bottles from schools is based on a two-fold approach: prevent the discarding of these items into the environment and keep them from contaminating the Tonle Sap, an essential resource for the community.

Simultaneously, this initiative offers schools a new revenue opportunity by facilitating the sale of these recyclable plastic bottles.

“Following a six-week trial, our team gathered insights from all stakeholders. These included school principals, teachers, village chiefs, parents or guardians, and students. We aimed to understand their perspective on this initiative, their expectations, what worked well and what areas require improvement. We are currently working to broaden this activity to other floating villages around the Tonle Sap Lake,” said iDE.

This call for collective action underlines the importance of community engagement in such initiatives and emphasises a shared vision for a cleaner, greener future.

Sat Sokha, director of Chulsa Primary School in the Tonle Sap area, echoed the project’s ethos. He asserted his school’s firm stance against plastic waste pollution in the floating village of the lake.

The school has initiated a unique programme encouraging students to collect all plastic bottles from their homes and bring them to school.

The school now functions as a repository for these plastic water bottles. Recyclers purchase the collected plastic directly from the school.

He noted that the school is collaboratively working to reduce the quantity of plastic entering the lake, thereby protecting the water, people, and the health of both humans and aquatic animals.

In conjunction with its partners, iDE has been implementing an array of activities to combat plastic pollution.

These include the creation of low-cost, floating waste collection tools named “Biobars”. These are designed to intercept waste, thereby preventing it from flowing into the Tonle Sap and causing further pollution.

Additionally, the organisation has been conducting training for waste collectors, imparting business knowledge and encouraging them to recycle waste.

They have also launched the EU-sponsored “Let’s Clean Up the Tonle Sap” campaign to influence social behaviour change.

This comprehensive and sustained effort underscores the commitment to creating a sustainable and clean environment for the inhabitants of the Tonle Sap area and beyond.