Bamboo Shoot Foundation, an NGO based in the province of Siem Reap has started to transform plastic waste into bricks being used as construction materials to lessen the pollution and damages brought by plastics thrown into the Tonle Sap lake.
Sea Sophal, director of the foundation, calls the initiative “Tonle Sap Green Brick”.
“Our project is to produce floor bricks for our community school, the Kampong Khleang high school. We add about 25 percent of shredded plastic to sand and cement to make the brick,” he said.
Bamboo Shoot Foundation currently has only one shredding machine which shreds plastics collected from the villagers. After the mixing process, the team dries the bricks and sends them to the community school where 40 volunteers composed of teachers and students called “Kampong Khleang Plastic Warriors” will lay floors with the bricks.
The initiative started in 2018 when the Water Falling and Water Rising Festivals partnered with Ocean Recovery Alliance to create growing engagement with the local villagers and fishermen.
According to Sophal, they created the first the programme “Harvesting Plastic”, incorporating the use of special ‘Plastic Only Bags’ for recycling, designed in both Khmer and English, and given to thousands of households along the Tonle Sap Lake in Siem Reap province.
“We are also working now with all the lakeside villages of Kampong Khleang community, Kampong Phluk, Chong Khneas and Mechrey floating villages in coordination with the local government,” Sophal said.
He said that their first goal is to bring awareness to the people about the plastic problem and not to either dump it in the water or burn it polluting the air.
“Both are very damaging to the environment. Of course, this was not easy to do, as most of the villages do not have the infrastructure to eliminate the waste, particularly when they are living remotely and do not have easy land access,” he said.
The team created a “plastic barn” with the villagers and the Ministry of Environment so people have a place to properly sort the plastic materials.
Villagers are urged to change their old habits of dumping plastics into the water or burning it with an incentive to receive five kilogrammes of rice in exchange for their home waste in the Plastics Only Bag plus another five kilogrammes from the plastics collected outdoors.
“Our plan is to launch the ‘Tonle Sap Green Brick’ by June this year. To sustain this initiative, our strategy is to incorporate with many other stakeholders that share a similar vision with us. We also need the support of the government and sponsors who have a business philosophy of social and environmental responsibility,” Sophal added.
Bamboo Shoot Foundation is planning to develop their initiatives into social business enterprises to provide jobs and additional income to the local community while aiming to install more shredding machines at various communities around the Tonle Sap Lake after signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Ministry of Environment.
“This is a great initiative. The Ministry of the Environment totally supports this project. We strongly believe that this can help to reduce the plastic waste problem,” said Neth Pheaktra, Ministry of the Environment spokesman.
This article was first published in Khmer Times. All contents and images are copyright to their respective owners and sources.