PM rolls out waste policy

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Cintri workers collect rubbish in Chak Angre Krom commune in Phnom Penh’s Meanchey district on Monday. Hean Rangsey

Prime Minister Hun Sen released a 10-year policy for waste management in urban areas, creating the Urban Garbage and Solid Waste Management Committee to oversee collection and develop recycling and waste-to-energy processing.

According to a sub-decree dated February 16 and seen by The Post on February 22, the committee is responsible for managing urban waste from collection to transformation into electricity for local use.

The committee’s duties include planning and setting policies for strategic operations, including devising methods to inspire investments in recycling and waste-to-energy processing. It must also prepare mechanisms to promote use of low-impact and environmentally friendly products.

The sub-decree states: “The committee will propose measures; lead, facilitate and monitor the performance of waste collectors and a waste collection payment mechanism; and set out clear problem-resolution procedures.

“The committee must conduct a large-scale campaign to educate the public on behavioural changes.”

Minister of Environment Say Samal will head the committee, which also comprises nearly 20 other senior officials from various ministries and institutions.

Hun Sen described the policy as supporting implementation of the government’s Rectangular Strategy Phase IV, in promotion of sustainable, inclusive development and environmental protection and response readiness to climate change.

He said the government needed this policy to guide the country towards maintaining a clean, healthy and beautiful environment with comfortable livelihoods for residents in the context of increasing urbanisation and rapid economic development.

The policy aims to achieve modernisation of urban waste collections services, including comprehensive and effective coverage, environmental sustainability and cost efficiency.

“The formation of this system by itself is not enough for the sake of environmental protection and inclusive sustainable development. It requires public awareness and active, responsible participation which entails changes in daily behaviours and habits as well as methods of business operation,” said the sub-decree.

The prime minister expected implementation of the policy to result in environmentally safe and hygienic procedures for collection, storage, separation and processing of the nation’s urban waste. It promotes reducing, reusing and recycling waste while applying impact fees on waste producers.

The environment ministry said more than 10,000 tonnes of waste are produced each day across the country, equal to nearly four million tonnes per year. Organic waste accounts for 64 per cent of the total while plastics amount to 20 per cent, and the rest is solid and other waste. Only about 10 per cent is estimated to be recyclable.

San Chey, executive director of the NGO Affiliated Network for Social Accountability, said people who improperly dispose of waste, such as in waterways, may exacerbate other problems like seasonal flooding and called for more government intervention.

“Effective mechanisms can be realised if there is an allotted budget with responsible monitoring and evaluation. Participation by CSOs working on urban development is necessary, along with regulatory enforcement and public education regarding better processes for separation and disposal,” he said.