Globally, plastic waste generation has soared to unimaginable levels. To date, we have generated 8.3 billion metric tonnes of waste, and we are expected to reach a total volume of 12 billion tonnes by 2050. In Cambodia, the plastic waste problem is complex; however, as one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change, finding a solution is a necessity.
Plastic consumption in Cambodia is synonymous with daily life. In Phnom Penh alone, around 10 million plastic bags are used on a daily basis. Small-to-medium enterprises are the driving force behind Cambodia’s growing economy, but the densely populated service sector encourages large scale distribution and consumption of convenient and cheap plastic products. From food vendors to clothing retailers, most items we are consuming are wrapped, packaged or served using plastic.
Beyond the service sector, plastic consumption is a pervasive reality at all levels in the supply chain. Combined with a lack of waste management infrastructure, effective recycling of plastic waste in Cambodia is nearly impossible. As a result, our waterways and our green spaces are burgeoning heaps of plastic and garbage.
Considering the scale and complexity of the problem, tackling plastic will require cross-sector evaluation, the production and promotion of viable plastic alternatives, national and sub-national capacity building, effective communication strategies, and improved education on environmental matters.