A June 17 workshop highlighted the remarkable progress of the Kingdom’s industrial waste management capabilities, noting how the 2023/24 Knowledge Sharing Program (KSP) has strengthened the capacities of small and medium enterprises (SMEs), as well as large factories.

In 2021, the Ministry of Industry, Science, Technology, and Innovation submitted the KSP proposal, which the Ministry of Economy and Finance and Korea Development Institute (KDI) reviewed, later confirming that it would be referred to as the “Strengthening SMEs and Large Factory Capacity on Waste Management” project. 

Since its launch in Phnom Penh in October 2023, the KSP has included seminars and meetings in Phnom Penh and Seoul. 

This collaborative effort with South Korea has already yielded impressive results, as discussed at the June 17 final reporting workshop, which presented several policy recommendations.

“We acknowledge the effort and time of the Korean side, who has been working hard on this project since it began communicating online with an industry ministry team on 8 June last year,” said Tung Ciny, secretary of state at the ministry.

“We are pleased to disseminate the project deliverables to this seminar today,” he added, as he presided over the workshop.

The Phnom Penh event was supported by Korean Development Partners.

Following two visits from a Korean delegation to Cambodia, their findings were compiled into an interim report, which was presented in Seoul, South Korea, in April this year. 

These site visits were crucial, as they offered insights into industrial waste management through incinerators, wastewater treatment, landfills and digital waste reporting systems such as the Allbaro system, which serves as an exemplary model for the Circular Economy in Asia.

A surge in Cambodian manufacturing factories and SMEs has significantly escalated waste generation, with over 500,000 enterprises in operation, according to Kim Young-rae, an environmental specialist from the Korean Environmental Professional Engineers Association. 

Of these, he explained, approximately 1,800 large enterprises make up a mere 0.36 per cent, while smaller enterprises dominate at 99.64 per cent, including 45,283 manufacturing SMEs.

“Notably, around 66 per cent of these manufacturing SMEs are engaged in the food, beverage, and tobacco industries, collectively generating 2,410,000 tonnes of waste, predominantly industrial wastewater,” said Young-rae. 

He noted that textile and garment waste, including footwear and leather, accounts for about 70 per cent of all industrial solid waste, most of which is transported to landfills.

Baek Nam-soo, senior advisor for the “KSP on Industrial Waste Treatment in Cambodia" with the Korea Development Institute (KDI), noted the positive comments of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Manet during his visit to Korea. 

The seminar on “Strengthening SMEs and Large Factory Capacity on Waste Management (2023-2024)” was held on June 17 at the Hyatt Regency Phnom Penh. Hong Raksmey

He said Manet emphasised the crucial role of Korea in Cambodia's economic growth and shared his intention to deepen bilateral and multilateral relations. 

Significant agreements include increasing the Economic Development Cooperation Fund (EDCF) from $1.5 billion to $3 billion and initiating construction of the Korea-Cambodia Friendship Bridge and local roads next year.

“Even if this current industrial waste disposal project is not large in scale, I believe it will become a meaningful stepping stone in the advance of Korean and Cambodian connections,” said Nam-soo. 

The initiative led to the establishment of state-of-the-art waste management infrastructure, including waste collection centres and a waste-to-energy facility in the Phnom Penh Special Economic Zone (SEZ). 

The estimated waste generation in the Phnom Penh area ranges from 100,000 to 300,000 metric tonnes per year, based on real generation, collected/disposed amounts and the estimates of waste collection companies.

These facilities now process up to 60,000 metric tonnes of industrial waste per year, drastically reducing the volume of waste sent to landfills and minimizing environmental pollution.

Continuous economic growth in Cambodia necessitates efficient waste management systems to address environmental impacts. 

SEZs under development in Cambodia include Phnom Penh SEZ, Kerry World Bridge SEZ, Poipet O’Neang SEZ, Sanco Poipet SEZ, Poi Pet PP SEZ, Kampot SEZ, Neang Kok Koh Kong SEZ and the Sihanoukville SEZ, among others.

Key to the transformation of waste management has been the implementation of data-based management systems. The introduction of a digital waste report system has streamlined waste tracking and improved overall efficiency. 

Additionally, the integration of the Higg Index has ensured that industries, particularly in the textile and garment sectors, comply with global sustainability standards. 

 “This collaboration has been incredibly fruitful. By leveraging advanced technologies and best practices, we’ve significantly improved waste management efficiency in Cambodia,” said Seo Myung-won, a professor from the University of Seoul.

“The digital waste report system and Higg Index integration are game-changers. They provide real-time data and benchmarks that help industries maintain high standards of environmental performance,” he added.

Ngeth Vibol, director-general of industry at the industry ministry, delivered his concluding remarks at the end of the half-day workshop.

“This final report highlights the current waste management challenges in Cambodia,” he said, emphasising that the increase in new factories may lead to excess industrial waste.

He noted that four crucial points must be addressed: collaborative data reporting and management, clear guidelines for waste criteria, regular monitoring and evaluation, and public awareness and education on waste reduction and proper disposal.

Vibol explained that acting on these points is essential for improving industrial waste management. Additionally, the establishment of waste treatment facilities and the implementation of software control systems to centralise management are vital for preserving natural resources.

“I believe these deliverables will dramatically enhance the success of industrial waste management in Cambodia by guiding industries and stakeholders in effective waste management practices,” he added.