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Government Faces Continued Waste Challenges

The government is dealing with the difficult task in collecting dangerous waste but is making an effort to inform public and private institutions of the dangers, an environmental official said Thursday.

The government continues to give notice to schools, hospitals and businesses of the dangers of medical, chemical and radioactive waste, said Chiek Ang, director of the Phnom Penh department of the environment, as a guest on “Hello VOA.”

Cambodia adopted a waste management law in April 1999, dividing solid waste into dangerous and non-dangerous categories, Chiek Ang said.

While some regular household waste is turned into compost, other waste is collected and sold for recycling, he said.

The Phnom Penh government has a contract with a private company, Cintri, which collects around 1,000 tons of trash daily around the city, sending it on to the Stung Meanchey dump.

But the government has found an additional need to collect batteries, electronic waste, syringes, needles, medicine bottles and organic waste such as limbs and the bodies of animals or humans, Chiek Ang said.

Recent projects include a 2007 student campaign to collect batteries from schools and embassies, with the Belgian government helping to destroy 18,000 tons of batteries, as well as a 2008 campaign to collect medical and industrial waste, he said.

Phnom Penh now is much cleaner and its air healthier because the government has set standards for water, smoke and noise pollution, he said.

However, one “Hello VOA” caller from Kampong Cham province said he disagreed.

Each time he comes to Phnom Penh, the caller said, he smells sewage and exhaust and notices that tourists cover their noses. Meanwhile, the roads remain dusty and drivers blow their horns non-stop, the caller said.