Cambodians Toxic Love Affair with Plastic

Mom Kunthear / Khmer Times No Comments Share:
Garbage lines a street in Phnom Penh. KT/ Fabien Mouret

A Fondazione ACRA survey has found that the average person living in a Cambodian city uses roughly ten times the number of plastic bags as their counterparts in China and various countries in Europe, according to a Monday press release. 
A single plastic bag seen blowing like tumbleweed through Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, or Sihanoukville  accounts for just one of the six used by residents in those areas in a single day, which themselves account for just a sliver of the over 2,000 used by an average resident during a year, according to Mak Bunthoeurn, project officer at ACRA.
According to his organization’s press release, those 10 million plastic bags used annually cost the country hundreds of millions of dollars in clean up and disposal.
Mr. Bunthoeurn said that he could not estimate how many plastic bags are used by each person nationwide due to a divergence in usage habits between rural and urban areas.
“Our organization is working to study what things people can replace plastic bags with by checking on resources and raw materials that can be used to create alternatives,” said Mr. Bunthoeurn.
Usually, imports of plastic bags are taxed, but that tax in Cambodia is low, making it much more reasonable to use the single-use conveniences than elsewhere in the world.
Mr. Bunthoeurn said that in order to take strong measures against the use of plastic bags, the goverment should put in place the law to require sellers to charge additional fee from consumers if they demand plastic bag of each transaction which we call ” charge a minimum price of plastic bag consumption.
“This is a recommendation the government should consider: whether places should provide free plastic bags to customers anymore,” he said.
Elodie Maria-Sube, cooperation attachée of the Delegation of the European Union in Cambodia, highlighted the way plastic bags are like a global pandemic, affecting places like the European Union as well, where a recent regulation was passed aiming to reduce the per-capita number of plastic bags down to 40 by 2025.
Ieng Aunny, Phnom Penh municipal deputy governor, said at an “Establishing Appropriate Policies and Legal Instruments for the Reduction of Plastic Bag Consumption” workshop on Friday last week that the city hall estimated that there are between 10 to 15 tons o f, or 3 to 5 million, plastic bags disposed in Phnom Penh each month.
Mr. Aunny said that despite being provided freely, plastic bags do come with a cost to Cambodian people and to the environment.
“We all know that changing people’s behaviors is not easy and will take time, but we cannot wait any longer, policymakers need to take action,” he said.
Sou Sovuth, under-secretary of state of the Ministry of Environment, said that local authorities will work together with national ministries to identify the most effective policies in order to curb plastic bag use.

Motorbikes pass a pile of garbage in Phnom Penh. KT/ Fabien Mouret

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