The Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia (ERIA) and the Ministry of Environment of Cambodia held a joint workshop today on Zero Plastic Waste for Public and Private Sectors and Communities in Koh Kong, Cambodia. The event fell under ERIA’s support to Cambodia’s Chairmanship of ASEAN in 2022, specifically for the ASEAN Social and Cultural Community (ASCC). In general, the workshop was conducted as a response of the massive increase of plastic waste in Cambodia due to population and economic growth.

H.E Ngin Lina, Deputy Director General of the General Directorate of Policy and Strategy at Cambodian Ministry of Environment, highlighted Cambodian people’s dependency on plastics, where one person brings home at least 10 plastic bags after buying food ingredients at the morning market and more plastic packaging after buying takeaway food.

‘The unmanaged plastics will clog the drainage and create floods during the rainy season,’ she said in the opening remark.

Given the urgency to address plastic waste issue, Mr Fusanori Iwasaki, Director of Policy Research of ERIA, said he expected the workshop to be an occasion to share knowledge and best practices, motivate all stakeholders, and discuss the ways to improve the existing efforts.

The Challenges in Addressing Plastic Waste

In the first session of the workshop, Dr Keo Vanthoeun, Deputy Director of the Department of Green Economy at the Ministry of Environment of Cambodia, said the country aims to implement the smart city program, which not only focuses on technology but also the cleanliness of the city. To achieve that, however, Cambodia needs international supports since it currently does not have sufficient experiences, experts, and fundings.

Mr Dek Vimeanraksmey, also from the Cambodian Ministry of Environment, added that the waste collection in the country only serves urban areas while the wastes in the districts with large population remain uncollected. The condition is exacerbated by the fact that Cambodia still uses unmonitored open dumping site instead of sanitary landfill. As the rate of waste grew by 50 percent in the last five years, the open dumping landfills are easily full in no time.

‘We will revise the Sub-Decree No. 113 on Urban Solid Waste Management by adding local authority’s responsibilities. We will also draft a new sub-decree on Plastic Waste Management with the support from UNDP,’ said Mr Vimeanraksmey.

Mr Oeun Panchakneat, the Environment Ministry’s Director of Department of Reward and Incentive, stated that the country is working to insert eco-school program in all levels of formal education to raise awareness about environmental issues. Schools need to apply to join the program, and the Ministry will select eligible candidates to become partners, he said.

Working Together to Solve Plastic Waste Issue

Mr Leang Sovichea, an independent consultant for marine plastics, mentioned how projects related to marine plastic reduction have been implemented in Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, and Sihanoukville, and more will be implemented in Koh Kong and many other cities.

‘Several hotels in Siem Reap have provided refillable glass bottle and shampoo/soap containers to reduce the plastic use. Unfortunately, a number of smaller enterprises, such as street food vendors still provide everything in plastics,’ said Mr Sovichea, during the workshop’s second session that discussed stakeholder participation in circular economy.

Mr Hak Sarum, Deputy Director of the Department of Environment in Koh Kong Province, asserted that the waste is not any institution’s problem but instead a global issue that requires collective efforts.

‘There should be communication between the people and the government,’ said Mr Sarum.

The workshop was closed by H.E Ngin Lina who expressed hope that the workshop will be useful for the stakeholders to work together to address plastic waste issue.