On Friday 23rd March 2018 Plastic Free Cambodia founder Sarah Rhodes visited AISPP to talk to the year 3-6 students about her work and how they can make a difference in Cambodia. Plastic Free Cambodia has been running since 2015 and currently operates in Phnom Penh, Siem Reap (where the head office is located), Battambang, and Kampot.
The near hour long presentation focused on the growing problem with single use plastic in Cambodia, and what the students could do about it on an individual level. Part of the presentation focused on how plastic never goes away. All of the plastic that has come into existence on Earth is still here in one form or another! Sarah also talked about how plastic is also harmful for fish, sea creatures, birds and other wildlife, and how plastic pollution is a major contributor to climate change. The students were engaged throughout and came away from the presentation motivated to make a difference.
A lot of disposed plastic ends up in the ocean. The plastic present in the ocean comes mainly from rivers and there are 10 rivers across the world that contribute to 95% of the plastic in the ocean. Eight of these rivers are located in Asia, with the other two located in Africa. The students were therefore horrified to discover that roughly one-tenth of the plastic in the ocean arrives there from the Mekong River. Sarah showed the students a powerful video showcasing the problem Phnom Penh has with waste and landfill. The video was shot using a drone so it was able to highlight the severity of the problem from an aerial perspective. Students were certainly surprised to see the extent in which the streets and rivers were filled with rubbish.
Sarah also educated students on the need to reuse, recycle, and reclaim. As a society, we consume far too much single use plastic, and this is a major cause for concern in Cambodia. Single use plastic items such as disposable coffee lids, plastic bags, and plastic straws are all items that we should think twice about before using. There are alternatives to these single use plastic items such as reusable coffee cups, biodegradable cassava bags (www.cleanbodia.com), and glass straws. A significant part of the presentation focused on the need to reduce the use of plastic bottles and how using the 20L water dispensers is far more economical and sustainable. Unfortunately there are no recycling plants in Cambodia and recycling is carried out in a very informal way by recycling workers, called Edjai. Edjai collect recyclable items to sell on to others who then export the waste to countries such as Thailand and Vietnam for (supposed) recycling purposes. Sarah did a fantastic job of conveying the problem Cambodia has with plastic use through powerpoint, video and imagery. She was personable and passionate and answered any and all questions posed by the children.
Plastic Free Cambodia conducts workshops for schools, hotels, restaurants, NGOs, and private companies on waste management, climate change, environmental health and eco-systems. They are also involved in a whole host of initiatives and community awareness programs such as Plastic Free July (www.plasticfreejuly.org), which looks to reduce plastic waste created by individuals as well as businesses.
Consider reaching out to Sarah and her team for further information regarding recycling plastic in Cambodia, workshops, community awareness programs or to make a donation using the following contact details: