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Transitioning Towards Zero Waste Communities: A Pilot Model in Kratie, Cambodia

Program Year: 2024

With support from GIZ and coordination by local NGO, the Environmental Education and Recycling Organization (COMPOSTED), The Asia Foundation is managing and providing technical support to the Reduce, Reuse and Recycle to Protect Marine and Coral Reefs (3pro-Mar) project. The initiative emphasizes community-based solutions to reducing improper waste disposal through piloting a solid waste management scheme on Koh Trung, an island on Cambodia’s Mekong River. Prior to the pilot launch in August 2023, the island faced indiscriminate dumping and burning due to a lack of proper waste collection. Through the pilot’s promotion of recycling, composting, and waste collection services, activities are already showing positive outcomes, such as improved waste practices and increased awareness on the island.

Waste Recycling Banks are one way the initiative is encouraging proper waste collection. Positioned in three schools and community spots, these banks encourage voluntary deposits of plastics, metals, and paper/cardboard. A storage facility manages recyclables from households and aids the cleaning process. Despite residents and students still adapting to the transition, significant amounts of waste were collected and sold by December 2023, yielding profits to share among schools, Koh Trung’s Community-Based Eco-Tourism (CBET) association, and the waste collection crew. Notably, schools utilized proceeds to purchase sports uniforms for deserving students.

Composting is another effective green practice for communities facing environmental challenges. Using skills taught by the local NGO, COMPOSTED, 50 households in Koh Trung are now home composting, with several already producing and using compost for their crops, such as pomelo and spring onions.

Koh Trung also employs a door-to-door collection system for non-recyclable waste, with a monthly fee administered by the Sangkat authorities (local government) and service provided by CBET. Like the recyclable waste collection banks, the use of non-recyclable collection services also increased. Utilization rose to 81% of households in December, up from 66%, 66%, and 58% in September, October, and November, respectively. Collection fees collected also increased in December, correlating with a total of 13 tons of waste transported to the landfill by December 2023.

The pilot integrates several impactful strategies, including training sessions, informative materials, voice messages, and clean-up events alongside community engagement. Despite challenges in waste separation and fee collection, the Foundation has observed that residents, students, and teachers actively embrace proper waste disposal practices. In a short period, Koh Trung’s environment has visibly transformed, delivering benefits to both residents and visitors.

Related locations: Cambodia
Related programs: Environment and Climate Action

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