Excellency Neth Pheaktra, Secretary of State at Minister of Environment,
Ms. Johanna Palmberg, Counsellor,Governance and Climate Change, the Embassy of Sweden
Excellencies, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,
It is my pleasure to welcome all to this national forum on plastic.
First and foremost, l, I would like to congratulate the Ministry of Environment and the National Council for Sustainable Development for organizing this important event. I would also like to thank the Embassy of Sweden for financial support for the BESD project. And I express my sincere thanks to all who join this Forum today.
After World War II, the production and use of plastic has increased exponentially across the planet. Today, the global total volume of plastic has reached 8.3 billion metric tonnes. To give you an image to consider, that is about the same weight as 1 billion elephants.
Today, therefore, we live in a world of plastic. It is deeply embedded in our daily lives and used for almost everything. But the omnipresence of plastic has come with a very expensive price tag.
By far the biggest problem that plastic does not biodegrade easily. Normal plastic bottles, for example, stay around for more than 400 years. Moreover, they slowly, leak chemical substances which harmful for the environment, for animals, and also for people.
Around 90% of plastic waste ends up in the world’s oceans. Most arrives by way of just 10 major rivers, one of which is the Mekong. Every year, 8 million metric tonnes of plastic is deposited in the e ocean, the same as a full garbage truck every minute of the day.
In marine areas, mammals, fish, and birds suffer or die because they ingest plastic or become entangled in plastic materials. More than 90% of all birds and fish are reported to have plastic particles in their bodies. And so, toxic chemicals pass through the food chain. In Cambodia, where fish is by far the most important source of protein, this poses a significant threat to health and food security.
Acting against the harmful impacts of plastic is therefore a very urgent task. It requires efforts from all countries at all income levels.
At the same time radical reductions in plastic waste and hence usage poses a challenge to our everyday habits. We are used to the convenience of plastic, which is both cheap and very convenient. But Since it is so damaging, a refusal to change our habits inflicts real harm, not only on our environments and ecologies, but also ourselves, and our children. Indeed, in the longer term also, the economic costs of restoring the environment will be higher for us all.
As I speak, more than 100 countries and cities have introduced bans or regulations on single-use plastic items, such as bags, straws and food packaging.
Often, just a simple nudge is required. Indeed, here in Cambodia, the Ministry of Environment (MoE) has recently introduced a new regulation that mandated a minims charge of 400 Riel cents per plastic bag. And this is having a real effect, consumers are rationalizing the plastic they discard, and making efforts to make use of re-usable bags In April 2019, the MoE established a special taskforce to promote the 4Rs - refusing to use plastic, reducing it use, reusing where possible, and recycling the materials. Not all types of plastic are equally harmful, of course, and some plastics will always be are necessary. However, very significant reduction in the consumption of single-use items such as straws and food packaging, is long overdue. needed.
In collaboration with Sweden, the World Bank, and Global Green Growth Institute, UNDP has supported the government’s efforts to promote the 4Rs. We support: the development of new regulations for single-use plastics; raising awareness about negative impacts of single-use plastics and the importance of the 4Rs; the building of a strategic coalition of stakeholders to combat the overuse of plastics; and finally, business support for recycling, alternatives, and non-plastic innovations.
Ladies and gentlemen
The fight against plastic pollution is an urgent priority. It requires dedicated efforts from everyone, individuals and families and small businesses, but most of all, it needs the engagement of large companies and national governments.
The Cambodian government has an important role in developing regulations that provide economic incentives to develop alternatives to plastics and encourages reuse and recycling. It also has a central role by raising awareness through environmental education.
The private sector has a critical role to play because it has the opportunity to make a decisive switch from current single use options to alternatives, promote recycling, and to develop new technologies and innovative business models to reduce overall plastic use and promote alternatives.
All of us, as consumers can cut the use single-use plastic like straws, plastic bags and plastic food packaging, for example by using eco-friendly shopping bags, and reusable products like coffee mugs. Together, we can think of creative ways of reducing our dependency on plastic in general.
Today’s meeting matters because it brings all stakeholders together to demonstrate aa strategic coalition that enables joint action against the plastic crisis. Thank you very much for joining us today and for stepping up to join the effort to tackle this challenge. I wish you all a very fruitful meeting.