Within the framework of Cambodian ASEAN Chairmanship support, Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia (ERIA) in collaboration with the Ministry of Environment of Cambodia held a youth engagement event entitled ‘Clean Up Day’ in two high schools in Kampong Cham and Tboung Khmum Provinces, Cambodia, on 14-15 November 2022. The activities aimed to build awareness among high school students about the harmful impact of plastic pollution on the environment and health, as well as to strengthen the cooperation between the national and provincial authorities in addressing plastic waste issues in the country.
On the Clean Up Day at the Hun Sen Oreang Ov High School, Tboung Khmum Province, His Excellency Eang Sophalleth, Secretary of State at the Ministry of Environment of Cambodia, encouraged the students to learn from good practices in other countries in his opening remarks.
‘Use your social media to learn how other countries solve this issue. In Japan, for example, they also use plastics, but we don’t see plastic litter on the streets as we see here. How do they manage it?’ H.E. Sophalleth said in front of 500 high school students who participated in the event.
He also urged the students to be the agents of change in their respective communities. ‘We all can be the driving force to clean and protect our environment. It starts with you. You lead by example, not only for your friends and family but also for the wider community. Spread the knowledge wherever you go,’ he added.
In her opening remarks on the Clean Up Day at Preah Sihanouk High School, Kampong Cham Province, Her Excellency Ngin Lina, Deputy Director General of the General Directorate of Policy and Strategy at the Cambodian Ministry of Environment, asked more than 200 students who participated in the event to reflect on their habit of using single-use plastics. She then outlined the impact of plastic pollution on the environment and the examples of 6R (Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Repair, Recycle, Rethink) practices that the students can carry out.
‘You probably will not remember everything we talk about today. But if you can remember at least one R out of the six Rs we just discussed, and practice that one R daily, it is already a great way to start,’ she said.
Furthermore, H.E. Ngin Lina highlighted the significance of youth’s role in addressing the alarming issue. ‘You play an important role in reducing plastic waste. It starts from you, from your school, from your house,’ she added.
She also mentioned the forthcoming revision of the Sub-Decree No. 113 on Solid Waste Management that will add local authority’s responsibilities, as well as ERIA’s support and commitment to engage the young generation of Cambodia as part of the ASEAN+3 collective efforts to address marine plastic pollution.
Before closing their remarks, both H.E. Eang Sophalleth and H.E. Ngin Lina conducted a quiz related to plastic waste issues with reusable water bottles as the prize. Some of the students showed enthusiasm to answer the questions and expressed their opinions on the topic.
After the ceremony, students from both schools participated in the clean-up activities and picked up plastic waste. Some cleaned around the school, while the rest went to the nearby market and other public spaces. In less than two hours, the students had their trash bags full of plastic waste. They then headed back to school for collective disposal, where the waste was picked up by garbage trucks managed by local authority before being sent to the landfill.
Ms Ayako Mizuno, Programme Manager of the Regional Knowledge Center for Marine Plastic Debris of ERIA, expressed her hope that the Clean Up Day could stimulate the participants to take part in preventing marine plastic pollution.
‘ERIA’s Regional Knowledge Centre works with the region’s policy makers, international organizations, as well as research and educational institutions. Engaging students in ASEAN +3 countries is an important on-going activity of the RKC-MPD. […] We are honoured to partner with the Ministry of Environment of Cambodia on this crucial undertaking to engage the public, communities, and most importantly, the youth in the efforts to prevent and minimize plastic pollution,’ she concluded in her remark.