Reducing the Plastic Pollution in Southeast Asia

Tackling the Plastic Pollution in Rural Cambodia!

There is a great need to reduce the plastic pollution in Southeast Asia. Throughout it's countries plastic pollution is a common sight. Bottles that were once clean and transparent are now lying on the ground, coated in a layer of dust. Plastic blags once used to carry shopping home drift aimlessly across roads and streets.

Single-use plastic is hard to avoid when visiting or living in these countries. The convenience of it and a lack of alternatives out here limits any significant changes being made.

The abundance of waste in this region is beginning to be recognised by the rest of the world. Recent research discovered that more than half of land-based plastic waste in the world’s oceans comes from four countries: Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Thailand. The reason being that disposal systems and waste management in these countries are not adequate to deal with the volume of plastic generated. And the demand for consumer products continues to grow; many which utilise single use plastic.

Why is this an issue

The issues surrounding plastic waste have become widely known over the last few years. Most people have seen pictures and videos of turtles being choked by plastic. And of whales washed on beaches with disposable bags in their stomachs.

These are the most visible examples of the impact plastic has in our oceans. What isn’t easy to see is the invisible plastic. This plastic has been identified in all samples collected in the world’s oceans, including the Arctic. Additionally, toxic contaminants enter the digestive systems of the creatures that eat any plastic waste. This can then be transferred to humans through consumption; and it is still unknown how much of a hazard this is for our health.

How does it get there?

Cigarette butts, drink bottles, bottle caps, food wrappers, grocery bags, drink lids, straws and stirrers are all the most common items found in the environment. These are all items many use every-day without thinking.

These then find their ways into rivers which flow directly to the oceans. 10 rivers in the world alone carry 90% of all plastic waste that ends up in the oceans. One of these being the Mekong River in Southeast Asia.

No effort is too small

Many efforts can be made to reduce the waste generated and disposed of in these countries. Most of these need to be done by large corporations and governments. But small efforts can be made by individuals and local communities to improve their environment.

An example of this is a clean-up recently performed by the children of Globalteer’s Helping Hands School. The school is located at a rural village near Siem Reap, Cambodia. In this village the community doesn’t have easy access to recycling facilities or waste disposal and are unaware of the harm this waste does to the environment.

The school organised for an afternoon to be spent helping to clean the environment in their village. Before the clean-up began, the children watched videos showing the effects plastic pollution has on the environment and wildlife across the world. Gloves on and bags in hand, the children then went into the village to pick up litter and cleaned up the side of the streets. They were also armed with signs and leaflets explaining to villagers why they were doing the clean-up.

The children worked hard to collect every bit of litter they could find, and by then end of the day there were many bags full to the brim with waste. Plastic bottles were sold and profits from these will go to the school. The rest of the waste will be reused in creative ways to avoid being left at a landfill.

Small efforts such as these may not seem like much, but if they become adopted in more schools and communities, they can help to improve the lives of many animals and humans in the future.