Experts tackle plastic waste

PHNOM PENH (The Phnom Penh Post/ANN) - To address plastic waste leakage into the rivers, four countries in the Mekong region have come together. 

Four countries in the Mekong region have come together to address
plastic waste leakage into the rivers. They made the commitment at a
workshop this week where the Mekong River was named as one of the 10
which channelled plastic into the ocean.

Fifty government officials and researchers from the four Mekong
countries – Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand and Vietnam – met from February
11-12 at a regional workshop in Vientiane hosted by the Mekong River
Commission (MRC) Secretariat and UN Environment Programme (UNEP)
Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific.

The meeting served to discuss assessment methodologies to study
plastic debris and its sources across the Mekong, a press release said
on Wednesday.

It said: In a bid to reduce plastic waste and fight plastic pollution
in the Mekong region, government officials and researchers from the
four Mekong countries agreed to assess plastic waste leakage into the
Mekong River system in order to inform about the current state of
plastic pollutants in the region and offer policy recommendations to
address the challenges.”

Ministry of Environment spokesman Neth Pheaktra welcomed the
agreement to have a joint mechanism to reduce plastic being channelled
into the Mekong River. He said Cambodia could not do it alone.

“The Ministry of Environment supports the study of mechanisms to
prevent the flow of plastic waste into the Mekong River. So far, we have
taken no concrete action apart from educating the people along the
Mekong River not to dump rubbish and improper packaging that can flow
into the river during floods.

“We have to have a clear set of rules by joint agreement because the
Mekong River is not the only one that crosses Cambodia. Therefore, there
needs to be a mechanism and approval from other countries to find a
solution for plastic pollution in the Mekong River.

“The pollution of the Mekong River is not only toxic to it but also to the sea,” he said.

According to a study on the export of plastic debris by rivers into the sea published in an academic journal Environmental Science & Technology
in November 2017, the Mekong River was one of the 10 that collectively
carried between 88–95 per cent of plastics into the world’s oceans.

There are also other reports around the plastic lifestyle that
proliferates across the Mekong neighbourhoods without basin-wide
countermeasures.

In Cambodia, about four million tons of waste is generated each year,
about 20% of which is plastic. Phnom Penh generates the largest amount
of rubbish with more than 3,000 tons per day or over 10 million plastic
bags full a day.

The MRC and UNEP are implementing the project as part of a larger
technical collaboration that both parties signed last December.

“The assessment will provide the four Mekong countries with
scientific evidence and information on plastic debris and plastic
pollution and their threat to the environment and people,” Kakuko
Nagatani-Yoshida, the UNEP Regional Coordinator for Chemicals, Waste and
Air Quality said when she addressed the meeting.

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