by Hendro Putra Johannes • 22 August 2022

In the coastal area of Sihanoukville, Cambodia, awareness about plastic waste management is low, with open burning practice is everywhere. This has led TONTOTON, a social enterprise, to work with the coastal community to address the problems.

‘Many types of plastic waste have no market value, even plastic bottles. No one is care about waste, until we collect them through the plastic credit funding,’ Ms Jess Kalisiak, Impact Manager of TONTOTON, said recently.

TONTOTON is a company that collects no-value, non-recyclable plastics to prevent them from entering the oceans. Nowadays, it also collects all types of waste disposed by households, littered in public spaces, leaking nearby the oceans, or washed ashore.

In the pilot programs in Sihanoukville, registered households are encouraged to clean, segregate, and dispose their waste in a bag provided by the company. After the bag is full, they could notify them to pick it up. There are incentives for such disposal, which are good enough for the community to survive in their daily lives. Incorporating such economic incentives is proved to be a supporting factor for a better waste management.

Waste bag provided for registered households.

‘The pilots still meet some challenges. Educating community who usually litter and burn waste often encounters obstacles. Not all households are willing to join the pilots. However, the community in general is progressing towards a better plastic awareness,’ said Mr Trong Kam, Project Manager of TONTOTON.

Some collectors affiliated with TONTOTON also regularly collect waste in the shoreline or washed ashore. They are formally registered and equipped with adequate equipment (including shirts, masks, gloves, and boots), to ensure their welfare and safety.

Waste washed ashore in a TONTOTON’s collection point.

To create a massive movement in the community, TONTOTON launched the “Plastic-Free Coastlines” campaign aiming at connecting all participating villages into a plastic-free community that works together for a common goal: plastic-free coastline communities.

It takes a village to clean a village. With this belief, the company connects with the government, international agencies, NGOs, businesses, schools, and the communities to build ownership around the pilots. The following blue and green flag with the TONTOTON’s logo reflects the hope of clean environment for both land and water.

TONTOTON’s Plastic Free Coastlines campaign logo.

The accumulated mixed waste is mostly utilized for waste-to-energy applications in cement industries, replacing fossil fuels, which by consequence reduces greenhouse gas emissions. Meanwhile, the collected PET bottles are sent to recycling facilities in Phnom Penh, requiring relatively high transportation cost. This is a root cause of the low value of plastic waste in the area. Investing in new recycling facilities, which enhance repurposing and recycling capacity, in Sihanoukville might be a solution to consider.

All these efforts are impossible without the plastic credit funding. TONTOTON is a local partner of a US-based company named ClimeCo, who provides companies with a global portfolio of plastic credit projects with a diversity of geography, impacts, and circular economy solutions.

Plastic credit is a market-based mechanism to drive private sector capital to on-the-ground projects removing environmental plastic and creating next life solutions, including recycling, repurposing, and co-processing. With this mechanism, TONTOTON also addresses the growing sustainable market alongside the need of private companies to take responsibility for their plastic footprint.