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Students encourage plastic use reduction

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Students participate in the ‘One Step, No Plastic’ campaign cleaning railway tracks in Phnom Penh in November. PHOTO SUPPLIED

Students encourage plastic use reduction

Garbage, especially plastic, is a dangerous source of pollution and poses a threat to the environment when it is poorly disposed of, officials said.

Plastic is often the most convenient – and affordable – packaging for all manner of products, which has led to an over reliance on it in many parts of the Kingdom.

Two young women want to raise awareness of the impact of discarded plastic and encourage people to reduce its use. They recognise the scope of the problem, but accept that a totally plastic-free community is not a realistic goal, which led to them to create a campaign they call “One Step No Plastic”.

The name refers to the idea that taking small steps wherever possible is the best way for most people to approach the issue, and their own over-reliance on plastic. The campaign is supported by All Dream Cambodia.

Co-founder Virak Monica said the campaign was launched last July, and has carried out clean up activities in four of the Kingdom’s most popular tourist destination provinces.

“We have operated in Kep, Siem Reap, Kratie and Phnom Penh. We cooperate with recycling companies to ensure that as much as possible of the garbage we collect gets reused, and we plan to expand to other provinces in the future’ she added.

Thong Hong Ing, another co-founder, said that in one campaign, she always received more participants and was able to collect more garbage as well.

“Our first campaign was in Kep, and we collected 500kg of garbage. The second, in Siem reap, netted 1,200kg and was followed by a Kratie event which retrieved 500kg of waste from the environment. Our most recent event, in the capital’s Koh Pich during November, collected nearly 10,000 tonnes of garbage. Almost 700 volunteers showed up to assist with the cleanup,” said her partner, Thong Hong Ing.

She noticed a change in the behaviour of the participants, all of whom were shocked by how much of the trash was daily-use plastics that they themselves often used.

“Many of the volunteers came and asked us what they could do to reduce their own use of plastic – we generally recommended the use of reusable water bottles and bags, and the use of environmentally friendly straws,” she said.

Ultimately, her goal is for people to follow the guidelines of the events, and reduce their own consumption of non-biodegradable products through a step-by-step process.

She believed that the campaigns contributed to the mainstreaming of the responsibilities associated with the use of plastics. Like the flow of a river gradually wearing down a stone, she hoped people’s behaviour would gradually change.

According to the Ministry of Environment, in 2022, the amount of waste generated in Cambodia increased by between 10 and 15 per cent a year.

More than four million tonnes of garbage is generated each year, an equivalent of over 10,000 tonnes per day.

Ministry secretary of state and spokesman Net Pheaktra said that just 64 per cent of the Kingdom’s waste was currently disposed of in landfills.

“We have developed policies and encouraged more cooperation with the sub-national authorities, which are responsible for managing solid waste, and establishing high quality landfills,” he said.


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