In the last two months, the “Today I will not use plastic” campaign, spearheaded by Environment Minister Eang Sophalleth, has seen active participation from 13 provinces and five institutions. 

They collectively signed memoranda of understanding (MoUs) with the Ministry of Environment, engaging around 3 million individuals. This initiative aims for a cleaner, greener environment, sustainable development and carbon neutrality.

The initiative has broadened its impact by incorporating more provinces, including Kampong Chhnang, Pursat, Kratie, Kandal, Stung Treng, Ratanakkiri, Mondulkiri, Kampot, Kep, Preah Sihanouk, Koh Kong, Kampong Speu and Takeo. These provinces have formally pledged their full and active participation in the campaign by signing an MoU with the ministry.

Noteworthy associations, including UNDP, FAO, The Cambodian Red Cross, the Girl Guides Association of Cambodia and Union of Youth Federations of Cambodia (UYFC), are also among the signatories.

On November 19, during an MoU signing ceremony between the ministry, six provincial administrations, the Girl Guides Association of Cambodia and the UYFC, Sophalleth expressed the ministry’s longstanding commitment for the campaign. The initiative has been widely shared across the nation by educators, students and communities.

“This campaign tackles crucial plastic waste issues and contributes to a cleaner future for our nation,” he said.

He expressed optimism and a strong belief that the plastic reduction campaign’s spirit will be remembered. Encouraging ongoing participation, he urged people to spread the message, advocating for reduced plastic use, aiming for plastic-free days in schools, homes and villages. 

Long Dimanche, deputy governor of Preah Sihanouk province, affirmed his province’s commitment to follow the ministry’s guidelines.

“In today’s unavoidable use of plastic bags and products, it’s crucial for us to collaborate and minimise plastic usage to protect the environment,” he said.

He noted that, historically, Preah Sihanouk and other coastal provinces have faced significant issues with plastic waste polluting the sea, necessitating a heightened focus on environmental protection and plastic reduction.

“To safeguard the environment, human wellbeing and marine life, we will strive to educate people, students, business professionals and local communities about the consequences of plastic waste,” Dimanche said.

According to a recent ministry report, the campaign to decrease plastic bag usage has gained widespread support from school management, teachers and students across general education institutions in the country. 

As of November 19, over 3 million volunteers, including 110,000 teachers and more than 2.8 million students from 6,619 schools, along with workers, employers and monks actively participated in the campaign. 

Kampong Speu provincial governor Vei Samnang highlighted that the provincial authorities have successfully reached over 30,000 individuals through the campaign and will continue their dissemination efforts.

“We aim to engage all people, stakeholders, factories and enterprises in minimising the use of plastic bags,” Samanag added.

The global use of plastic poses environmental and health challenges, with over 9.5 billion tonnes produced annually. Only nine per cent of plastic waste is recycled, while the rest ends up in landfills or incinerated, contributing to 8 million tonnes entering the sea each year.

In Cambodia, rapid economic growth, improved living standards and societal changes have led to heightened plastic consumption. On average, a Cambodian uses approximately four plastic bags daily, resulting in around 55 million bags used daily nationwide.