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Plastic waste proliferation a global crisis, UNDP warns

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Plastic rubbish littering the environs of the Tonle Sap Lake in Siem Reap province’s Puok district last year. Hean Rangsey

Plastic waste proliferation a global crisis, UNDP warns

The Ministry of Environment and the UN Development Programme (UNDP) officially launched their Innovation Competition promoted under the hash tag #BeatPlasticCampaign in an effort to prevent marine plastic waste in Cambodia.

In a press statement on December 13, the ministry and UNDP announced that the competition was launched to provide opportunities for companies and individuals – especially young people – to take part in inspiring educational opportunities related to solid and plastic waste reduction. The targets for the campaign are students, youths, garment workers and the private sector in general.

Kith Chan Krisna, director of the national project and adviser to the ministry, said the competition is part of a larger project to prevent marine plastic waste in Cambodia to be carried out over the course of two years.

The programme also provides support for the government’s policy of mobilising the public to pay attention to environmental issues.

“This project is to help reduce the overall amount of solid and plastic waste, both on land and in the sea. The sea not only means Preah Sihanouk, Koh Kong, Kep and Kampot provinces, but also in provinces like Siem Reap because the Tonle Sap River flows into the sea. We need to reduce waste through the 4R,” he said, referring to the environmentalist’s mantra of reduce, reuse, repair and recycle.

Since 2018, the government has been promoting the implementation of the 4R. The marine plastic waste prevention project was initiated in January with financial support from Japan.

The project aims to prevent or reduce plastic waste pollution both on land and in the sea in the capital and five provinces – Siem Reap, Preah Sihanouk, Kep, Kampot and Koh Kong.

According to UNDP, the competition will accept applications from December 9-31, giving time for individuals, youth groups, local NGOs, communities, event agencies and private companies that love and care about the environment to apply.

“If you are creative in your campaign, please join us in preventing and reducing plastics. You can win up to $18,000 for implementing your campaign ideas. The total prize money available is $70,000,” the UNDP’s statement said.

UNDP environmental expert Moeko Saito Jensen says it is easy for plastic waste to get into the sea even when it is disposed of on land. And because it is not biodegradable, it stays in the environment where fish end up eating it and so much of it accumulates that it can destroy their habitat.

She said plastic waste impacts the environment and wildlife, and when thrown into the canals, it can block sewage and drainage systems and cause flooding. She also noted that burning plastic as means of disposal is also very bad for public health and the environment.

Japanese ambassador Masahiro Mikami said Japan is committed to working alongside Cambodia to jointly fight plastic pollution through the project.

According to UNDP, plastic waste has become a global crisis with the volume of production rising sharply from 2.3 million tonnes in 1950 to 448 million tonnes by 2015. Each year about eight million tonnes of plastic waste flows from coastal countries into the sea through 10 major rivers, including the Mekong.

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