Corona Pandemic caused serious financial problems for the Tonlé Sap area relating heavily on tourism. Most of the families generate a considerable amount of their income in one or the other way through services for tourists. Boat trips on the lake, home stays, street stalls with food, drinks or fresh coconut .. it all helps the lake communities to earn their living. Corona and the strict travel restrictions put an immediate and painful end to the extra income.
That’s why we kicked off the "PSSBL Rice for Plastic" program in early summer 2020.
The idea was to provide the lake communities to exchange collected plastic for donated rice to secure the basic needs for the Tonle Sap communities.
We provided "plastic only" bags to the villagers at Kampong Khleang, so they can collect cleaned and sorted household plastic in these bags and gave them the opportunity to exchange these bags once a month for a bag of rice.
The program was well accepted in the community and people can see "direct advantages" of collecting plastic.
September 2020 marked the third month for the Rice4Plastic project and was the month for the kick off of the Kampong Khleang High School youth group.
These young and motivated eco warriors took over the lead for the collection of the returned "Plastic only" bags, were in charge of monitoring the correct sorting of the Plastic Only Bags received from each family in the village of Chong Prolay and for handing out rice in exchange for the collected plastic.
The small group of the new youth group Eco Team made their way via a large boat to Chong Prolay. As the water had risen slightly from the previous month, once arriving smaller boats were used to make the house to house collection and inspection.
They collected the "Plastic Only" Bags from the families and gathered data for rice donations and overall village participation. Writing down the names of the donors, amount of plastic collected and dropped off and also keeping a list of the rice handed out.
In August, 11 families had participated some having properly sorted some not. In September we had already 28 families who contributed their household plastic and nearly all were correctly sorted. This marks an over 50% participation rate for this village. Reducing the amount of plastic entering into the swollen waters of the Tonle Sap.
Our new Eco Warriors are not only collecting plastic but also confidence and knowledge to take into their own villages of Kampong Khleang to extend the Plastic Only Bag waste sorting campaign which will be applied throughout the community. As an added bonus we were able to shred a few bags full of plastic back at the high school in the community’s shredding machine. This shredded plastic will be used to make bricks that can be utilized in some local building projects as the project moves forward.
With great collaboration from all we are continuing to reduce the amount of plastic finding its way into this most important body of water.