The Youth Resource Development Program (YRDP) launched a 4Rs campaign – Refuse, Reduce, Reuse and Recycle – with the slogan “refusal to use plastics starts with you” to urge youths and others to reduce their plastic use, which they believe is harmful to the health of humans, animals and the environment over the long term.

The campaign was launched on July 17 with the participation of over 200 people, including civil society organizations, business people, youths and government representatives at a private school in Phnom Penh’s Tuol Kork district.

Sol Lyhorng, project assistant to promote youth engagement for influence of policy at YRDP, said on July 18 that the campaign aims to encourage everyone, especially youths, to reduce their use of plastics, with a primary focus on single-use plastics.

She added that the campaign was launched to encourage the implementation of plastic management policy and the principle of “4Rs” to raise living standards as plastics continued to impact the lives of humans and animals.

“We conducted this campaign in three stages over four to five weeks online. We gathered to hold an event and we’ve advertised our message directly at markets. We also continue to ask youths to join this campaign to spread the messaging related to the campaign,” she said.

Lyhorng said she thinks that youths have begun to reduce their plastic use, while overall demand for plastic use has increased.

She said that they had begun to use multiple-use plastics instead of single-use plastics and they were aware of the plastics impacts on health even if they can’t eliminate use of them 100 per cent.

“I hope that the participants will take the knowledge they acquire and put it into practice and they will reduce some non-essential plastic use, such as bottles. We can replace those with eco-friendly water bottles,” she said.

The Ministry of Environment said plastics are elastic and thin materials that are flexible and durable, but the plastics cause negative impacts to the environment and human health.

Plastics are also made from non-sustainable fossil carbon resources such as oil and coal and use of plastics encourages the extraction of these resources and may delay efforts to shift over to renewable and clean energy sources, in addition to the direct harm caused by plastic pollution in the environment.

Year four student Non Ponleu of the Royal University of Phnom Penh (RUPP) joined the campaign and said that he had reduced his daily plastic use.

He added that when he went to the market to buy something, he now refused to use plastics such as bags or straws whenever possible and instead brings along his own reusable bags and he had shifted to multiple-use items for things like water bottles.

“The initiative to reduce plastic use is of vital importance. We see that plastics have a strong impact on plants, animals and fish. If we have this campaign and urge youths to learn about it, then the rate of use will be reduced,” he said.

Another participant Son Yeum called on the public, especially youths, to reduce plastic use. He expected that their participation to reduce plastic use would help their own health, the national economy and help the planet.

“There are a lot of ways for us to refuse plastic use. We simply have eco-friendly water bottles, eco-friendly tote bags. We can refuse or reduce all plastic use,” he said.

Environment ministry spokesman Neth Pheaktra lauded the campaign, saying that it contributed to improvement of the environment in Cambodia and his ministry supported their call to reduce use of plastics.

“The Ministry of Environment also calls on people to join in plastic management policy implementation in their daily lives. We are also educating people to know about how to sort rubbish to reduce waste and pollution, especially with plastics. We urge everyone to reduce, recycle and reuse multi-use plastics and to refuse single-use plastics,” he said.

He added that Cambodia now produces more than 10,000 tonnes of rubbish every day and more than 4 million tonnes of rubbish per year. From 65 to 68 per cent of the rubbish is organic waste and therefore biodegradable but more than 20 per cent is plastic waste and 10 per cent is solid non-organic waste.