The River Ocean Cleanup (ROC), a local NGO, announced that since March last year, it has collected nearly 500 tonnes of waste from the banks of Phnom Penh’s rivers.

The NGO is currently working to extend its activities to Cambodia’s coastal areas, as part of its plans to eliminate waste that affects the Kingdom’s environment and marine biodiversity.

ROC executive director Nou Sovann told The Post that the rubbish that was collected from the capital had been stored in a warehouse where it would be separated for recycling. The garbage that could not be recycled would be sent to a private company, where it would be converted into energy.

Sovann said the organisation’s mission is to make Cambodia’s rivers and oceans free from plastic pollution.

“Last week, we visited Koh Sne, in Koh Kong province, where we saw many years worth of garbage on the beach. Because we are committed to the environment, we could not leave it there. We spent two days collecting trash and left the beach in a pristine state. Hopefully, we set a good example, and in the future, people will dispose of their rubbish correctly,” he added.

He said that the ROC calculated that they had collected at least ten tonnes of trash, and were concerned that if they had not cleaned it up, people would continue to dump their garbage and ruin the tourism appeal of the site.

The organisation has formed a working group to clean up coastal areas.

“We need to keep our beaches clean and free of rubbish. I hope that local authorities and the public will do their part to clean up. It we see a piece of trash and ignore it, the problem will only get worse, so only direct action will bring an end to the problem,” said Sovann.

In addition to his appeal to local authorities and the public, he is seeking partners in the private sector to support regular cleanup operations at the organisation’s target areas.

“I believe that we need to conduct cleanups every one or two months to keep a beach clean. Initially, we aim to target one beach on Koh Sne. Apart from our operations, it is crucial that we educate locals and tourists who visit the island so they do not litter,” he said.

Cambodia produces about four million tonnes of waste per year, which is equivalent to more than 10,000 tonnes per day according to the Ministry of Environment. Only 51 per cent is dumped at landfills.