Plastic bags remain major source of litter in Cambodia

Voice of America
5 September 2015

Many years ago, banana or lotus leaves were used to wrap up snacks and other goods. These days, it’s plastic bags. The country is littered with them. Increasingly, Cambodians are beginning to worry about their impact on human health and the environment. Yet there’s a long way to go to get rid of them.

Ear Phun, a vendor at O’Russei Market, in Phnom Penh, said he sells between 50 kilograms and 200 kilograms of plastic bags every day. “The number of lotus leaves cannot meet the demand of the population, which is rising every day,” he said. “So we can’t avoid using plastic bags, even though we know they are harmful to the environment.”

Hul Seingheng, director of research at the Institute of Technology, said plastic bags are made up of potentially harmful chemicals. Some of them are carcinogens, which can affect reproductive health in women, including fetal development, he said. Plastic bags can also be dangerous to aquatic wildlife, which swallow them, he said. And, if plastic is left in the ground for a log time, chemical “leaching” occurs.

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