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Making plastic bag recycling fashionable

A model shows off one of Svay Sovannara’s reused plastic bag designs.
A model shows off one of Svay Sovannara’s reused plastic bag designs. Athena Zelandonii

Making plastic bag recycling fashionable

For most, a plastic bag is a mundane item, thrown away minutes after it’s acquired, but for Svay Sovannara, it’s just one the raw materials that go into his tailored creations.

The 20-year-old student with a passion for fashion (he self-taught himself tailoring from internet videos) is part of “G Gorgeous”, a team of six designers and models that will present their work to cap off the Plastic Free July campaign at Cloud tonight. The event will feature a fashion show and photo exhibition.

The concept, he said, was to show that “even something we don’t think of can be used to make something”, and draw attention to the environmental threat posed by plastics.

“On average in the major cities in Cambodia, people are using 42 to 52 plastic bags per person per week,” said Charlotte Muckensturm, Phnom Penh’s project manager for Plastic Free Cambodia.

While other developed and developing countries alike are placing restrictions on, implementing economic disincentives to, or outright banning plastic bags (as is the case with Rwanda), these figures suggested a serious level of overuse in the Kingdom, Muckensturm said.

A lack of recycling and waste management options for items such as single-use plastic bags mean that with a growing economy and growing use of plastics, the problem is getting worse, according to Muckensturm.

“We are conducting workshops and trainings in schools and restaurants,” she said, a key part of the groups’ citizen-led initiatives to encourage more sustainable practices among consumers.

She said ways to reduce the throw-away culture included making use of biodegradable containers rather than Styrofoam for take-away or simply using reusable cups.

Through G Gorgeous’ designs, Sovannara said he hopes to show the public the potential of the plastic products people so readily discard. “They think it can’t be used . . . [but] they all can be used”.

“I hope that all youth will help each other to protect the environment. Don’t throw away what we think we can’t use, because it destroys the environment,” he said.

Plastic Free July’s wrap-up party is on tonight at Cloud, #32 Street 9. 7pm. For tips on how to reduce your plastic consumption check out plasticfreecambodia.com.

Additional reporting by Alessandro Marazzi Sassoon

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