My inspiration for this project

My inspiration for this project

I’ve known my whole life that plastic pollution is bad for the planet. I try my best to reduce my consumption by limiting my use of plastic bags, bottles and take away containers. When I lived in Canada, I took solace in the fact that certain plastic items could be recycled (not an ideal solution) but now that I live in Phnom Penh, recycling is not an option and [almost] everything ends up in the trash.

Additionally, plastic consumption occurs here on a much larger scale than what I’m used to. Literally everything comes packaged in plastic bags. I mean, even my take away coffee comes in a plastic bag! And, of course, the extremely cheap, lightweight polystyrene container is very popular.

I mentioned in my first post that I’m seeing the devastating effects plastic has had on this country I call home. The average Cambodian uses 6 times more plastic bags than the average American, approximately 52 bags a week or 2700 bags a year (Plastic Free Cambodia).  Approximately 20% of trash collected in Phnom Penh consists of plastic bags and polystyrene food containers (Arduino).  The impact extends globally as the Mekong river drains into the South China sea where it is distributed throughout the Pacific ocean.  I’m sure you’ve seen the images of seabirds with bellies filled of plastic and turtles with straws stuck inside their naval cavities. And in case you haven’t…. 

Image credit: Robinson, Nathan J. 
Image credit: Jordan, Chris.

Last year, my super-awesome friend decided that her birthday celebration would be a garbage cleanup around the streets of Phnom Penh.  That day, I collected countless straws and plastic bags.  They were literally everywhere.  Soon after, I came across the Plastic Free Cambodia  organisation and their simple, straightforward and impactful campaign to limit people’s plastic consumption. They initiated this campaign in attempts to change behaviours nationwide. Check out their video:



And so, my husband and I decided to take on  their one month plastic free challenge!  However, rather than eliminate our consumption of  only the top 5 plastic enemies, we decided to take it one step further and eliminate as much plastic as possible.

Image Source: Plastic Free Cambodia

So, we sat down Christmas day and devised a plan of how and where to buy our staples without the packaging. With the help of friends we’ve created a list which we hope will evolve as we learn more and more. We hope it will help other Phnom Penhers too if they choose to take on the plastic-free challenge.  Stay tuned for my next blog post where I will publish this list!




  1. Robinson, Nathan J. “The Turtle That Became the Anti-Plastic Straw Poster Child.” Plastic Pollution Coalition. 11 Nov. 2015. Web. 1 Feb. 2017.
  2. Jordan, Chris. “Shocking Image of Dead Albatross’s Stomach Stuffed with Plastic Reveals Just How Much Garbage Is in Our Oceans.” Daily Mail Online. Associated Newspapers, 11 Dec. 2014. Web. 1 Feb. 2017.
  3. “Plastic Free Cambodia Provides Education, Workshops and Alternatives.” Plastic Free Cambodia. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 Feb. 2017.
  4. Arduino, Serena. “Assessment on the Cost of Plastic Bags in Cambodia.” (n.d.): n. pag.Excess Baggage. Fondazione ACRA, Jan. 2016. Web. 1 Feb. 2017.

2 thoughts on “My inspiration for this project

  1. Hi guys,

    Love the idea and totally inspired too! My main enemy is my memory when it comes to making sure I have my shopping bag ready and don’t lose my water bottle.

    Just one question: I thought it was pretty easy to recycle in Cambodia. I have all my trash sorted right now. I will take it downstairs where our guard will deliver it to “Eh-jai” (H-I) who will come with a pedicart, take plastics, milk boxes, glass bottles, and cans to sell (somewhere) for money. Do you have more information about this? Do you have eh-Jai in your neighborhood? They usually travel around calling out their trade or squeezing a little plastic soap bottle horn…

    Thanks and let’s do this!

    Jon Banules

    1. Hi Jon,

      We do have one in our neighbourhood and separate our recyclables! I don’t have much information but I believe there are centers around the city where the Ehjai sell these items. Then, as far as I know, most of our recyclables go to Vietnam to be recycled.

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