Combatting Marine Plastic Litter in Cambodia


The worldwide total volume of plastic has reached 8.3 billion metric tonnes.  Over 8 million metric tonnes of plastic enters the sea every year. Most of this waste arrives by way of just 10 major rivers, one of which is the Mekong. In marine areas, many mammals, fish and birds suffer from ingesting plastic or becoming entangled in plastic materials. More than 90% of fish are reported to have plastic particles in their stomach. In this way, toxic chemicals pass through the food chain.

In Cambodia, over the last decades, a combination of rapid population growth and economic development has led to a surge in the volume of solid waste, including plastic waste. In Phnom Penh, for example, more than 3,500 tons of municipal waste is generated every day. Approximately 80% of the waste is collected and disposed of at open dump sites. In poor urban areas and in rural areas without waste collection services, waste is often burned in the open. The remaining waste is disposed of on streets, or into local waterways, which carries plastic to rivers.

Plastic waste pollution has highly damaging environmental and economic impacts.  Major cities such as Phnom Penh, and Sihanoukville are severely affected by increased flooding risks since plastic waste blocks waterways and clogs sewage and drainage systems. Burning plastics also releases harmful chemicals, into the atmosphere which heighten public health risks. In coastal areas, impacts of plastic waste to the tourism industry are particularly significant.

To tackle plastic pollution, in April 2018, the Ministry of Environment (MoE) introduced a small charge for the purchase of plastic bags at supermarkets. Since 2019, the MoE has promoted the 4Rs (Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle) as a framework. The MoE has focused on three priority areas: 1) policies and regulations, 2) plastic waste communication and outreach, and 3) business development and support for plastic circularity.

Key Expected Outputs

This project aims to prevent and minimize plastic waste pollution on land and in the ocean through promotion of a 4R framework. It will develop policies and regulations, raise awareness, and support the reduction of plastic waste, and the promotion of recycling and plastic alternatives. Target provinces include Siem Reap, Sihanoukville, Phnom Penh, and Kep and possibly Kampot and Koh Kong for the effective reduction of marine plastic pollution at source. The project aims to attain five main outputs:

    1. Policy and regulation: Key enabling policies and regulations developed and implemented to promote 4Rs

    2. Awareness raising: Improved awareness about the plastic crisis and its solutions among citizens and the private sector through environmental education and awareness raising activities

    3. Subnational implementation: Plastic waste reduced in target cities through education, private sector-led best practices and innovation

    4. Business development: Priority business models for plastic recycling and alternatives supported and tested

    5. Knowledge sharing: Best practices disseminated and shared

Key Project’s Milestones and Progress as of December 2021

1. Policy and regulation

    . The National Circular Economy (CE) Strategy and Action Plan was launched in June 2021. It outlines the key visions, and roadmap to enable Cambodia to transition from a linear to a circular economy

    . A draft report on Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) Roadmap for Cambodia was developed in November. This report introduces key objectives, actors, and instruments of EPR and includes an initially proposed EPR roadmap to transition from a “Voluntary EPR” to a “Mandatory EPR” in Cambodia

    . A draft Sub-Decree on Plastic Management will be finalised in Dec. The key objective of this sub-decree is to manage and reduce the use of plastic products, properly manage plastic waste, and prevent and minimize plastic waste leakage to land and waterways  

    . Recommendations on economic measures (import duties for plastic materials & economic incentives for alternatives) were submitted to the Ministry of Economy and Finance (MEF) for further discussions

2. Awareness raising

    . Awareness raising communications strategy was developed and the recommended activities were reflected in the General Directorate of Environmental Knowledge and Information’s work plan

    . Five awareness raising videos (1 music, 1 cartoon, and 3 short videos) were developed to raise awareness about negative consequences that plastic has on the environment and required actions towards the 4Rs

    . “60-Day: Carry for Saving” awareness raising campaign was implemented by the Department of Media and Communication of the Royal University of Phnom Penh (DMC/RUPP) for changing behaviours on plastic consumption among university students across Phnom Penh

    . Two websites (1: CE Private Sector Platform and 2: Plastic Management) were designed by Dec 2021 to disseminate recent information and updates related to CE practices and plastic management

    . Innovation challenge: #BeatPlastic Campaign was launched in Dec to identify most effective modes of campaigns in changing “behaviours” towards adopting the 4Rs. Four target groups for this campaign are 1. Primary school students; 2. Youth (age 15 to 30); 3. Garment sector; and 4. The other private sector

    . 2 teacher training workshops on plastic education were organized for SHV and Kep in Nov

    . Certificate ceremony for best performance actors on plastic waste management was organized in Nov to incentivize environmentally friendly practices

3. Subnational implementation

    · Scoping research in three target provinces (PNH, SRP, and SHV) were completed to assess the volume, types, sources of plastic waste to identify hotspots and to propose key priority interventions & Letters of Agreements (LoAs) with PNH, SRP SHV were signed

    . Pre-assessments of needs for water filtration systems among schools in target provinces as well as needs for clean-up equipment for SRP and SHV were completed

    . SHV province conducted stakeholder consultation workshops to identify relevant stakeholders to join the project including government offices, fishing and ecotourism communities, and hospitality and tourism businesses; hosted a donor visit to project sites and organized environmental cleanup day in Nov

    . PNH implementer conducted data collection on hotspot locations in 8 districts; distributed water dispensers to 8 schools; and organized a cleanup activity at a hotspot location near Angkor Beer company on 7 Dec

4. Business development

    · A list of alternative products to plastic in Cambodia was prepared

    · Innovation challenge for sustainable e-commerce focusing on alternatives was launched in September. The objective is to identify solutions to realise wider adoption of alternatives and innovative means to change distribution and consumption behaviour of plastic product. Winners will be selected in Jan 2022

    · A draft report on plastic recycling was developed in Dec 2021. This report identifies design, technologies and scales of plastic recycling used in other countries and in Cambodia and identify types and volume of plastic waste that can be targeted for plastic recycling

5. Knowledge sharing

    · The project contributed to the global UNDP webinar “Let’s Talk Plastics” on March 10th

    · A learning seminar was provided by UNDP India in May 2021 on EPR in India

    · The project shared about its implementation and progress in the “Waste Summit Cambodia 2021” in Sep

    · The second national forum was organized in Dec to bring together all relevant stakeholders, to share the state of knowledge about global, regional and national practices related to plastic management