Recycling in Cambodia: Building the Capacity of Plastic Bottle Collectors

Program Year: 2024

The Asia Foundation, with support from the Coca-Cola Foundation, is implementing a project to strengthen PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate) plastics recycling in Cambodia. PET plastics, commonly used in the packaging of water and carbonated beverages, are the focus of this initiative. According to the United Nations Environment Program, plastic waste, including PET bottles, made up 21% (213,536 metric tons) of Phnom Penh’s annual 1,015,980 metric tons of solid waste in 2019. The majority of this waste is collected and disposed of at open dump sites, while the remaining is burned and disposed of on the streets or into local waterways.

In collaboration with our local NGO partner, the Environmental Education and Recycling Organization (COMPOSTED), and a local plastic recycling factory consultant, Ung Sok Try (UST), we are strengthening the capacity of Cambodia’s PET recycling sector to reduce plastic waste and optimize the PET bottle recycling supply chain. To achieve these goals, we are engaging recycling companies and junk shops in Phnom Penh and Battambang provinces. Through comprehensive training, we equip them with skills to grade, sort, clean, and transport recycled PET materials more effectively and profitably, strengthening the supply chain.

One of the training participants, Ms. Savorn, has owned a junkshop near the Dangkor landfill in Khan Dangkor, Phnom Penh, since 2010. She sources her materials from small junkshops, itinerant buyers, and waste collectors to sort, clean, and then sell to three recyclers, two of which are for plastic bottles, including UST. She can buy up to five tons of recyclables per day, of which two tons are plastic bottles. Of the four tons she can sell daily, just under half are plastic bottles. 

Savorn demonstrates the impact of the project training on her business. Initially unable to secure low prices due to a lack of sorting and cleaning, her situation changed dramatically post-training. By putting this new knowledge into practice, she has acquired higher prices. The effects training had on Ms. Savorn were also underscored by increased income and business improvements. The Foundation plans to extend the project to assist other junkshop collectors in increasing the recycling of PET plastics by unlocking the value of waste.

Related locations: Cambodia
Related programs: Environment and Climate Action

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