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Environment Ministry Vows to Reduce Plastic Bag Use by Half


Piles of garbage, mostly plastic bags, are scattered on a road near Derm Kor Market, Phnom Penh, Cambodia, July 3, 2015. (Ouch Nida/VOA Khmer)

Piles of garbage, mostly plastic bags, are scattered on a road near Derm Kor Market, Phnom Penh, Cambodia, July 3, 2015. (Ouch Nida/VOA Khmer)

Environment officials said if their estimates are accurate there are more plastic bags used daily in Phnom Penh than in many European countries or even China.

Taxes on plastic bags will be increased in an attempt to lessen the use of the harmful products in Cambodia, which has one of the highest number of plastic bags per capita in the world, officials have said.

The Ministry of Environment on Wednesday said the excessive use of plastic bags in Cambodia – more than 10 million plastic bags are estimated to be used each day in Phnom Penh alone – was having a devastating impact on the environment.

Environment officials said if their estimates are accurate there are more plastic bags used daily in Phnom Penh than in many European countries or even China.

Heng Nareth, director general of the ministry’s environmental protection department said it would aim to cut usage to 50 percent by 2019 and by 70 percent by 2025.

Heng Nareth, director general of the Ministry of Environment's general department of environment protection talks to reporters about government measures to reduce plastic bags on June 22, 2016. (Hul Reaksmey/VOA Khmer)

Heng Nareth, director general of the Ministry of Environment's general department of environment protection talks to reporters about government measures to reduce plastic bags on June 22, 2016. (Hul Reaksmey/VOA Khmer)

​Firstly, officials would set regulations for the size and shape of the bags, before imposing a 10 percent tax on imports and finally instructing supermarkets to charge 500 riel (about 12 cents) per bag.

“If these measures work, we could reduce it to 50 percent,” he said.

Part of the regulations will prohibit bags thinner than 0.03 millimeters and with a base smaller than 30 centimeters in width.

Penalties for non-compliance include fines and even the possible forced closure of the business.

Mak Bunthoeun, project officer at the Acra Foundation, said: “In our country, we don’t have infrastructure to recycle them. So, after we use them, they become rubbish.”

Plastic bags are carcinogenic and studies have shown they can have negative impacts on reproductive health when the plastics are taken into the body. Increasing amounts of plastic is finding its way into the food chain after breaking down and being consumed by fish and other creatures, which are in turn eaten by humans.

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