The burning of plastics in Cambodia

August 27, 2019

We’ve been documenting the burning of plastics here in Cambodia. You can’t avoid it – it’s everywhere. Nearly every street, every village, there are hundreds of small – and big – piles of garbage being burned every day. We’ve been talking to people a lot – not one of them was aware it was toxic to them or bad for the environment. And that’s reasonable – most places here don’t have cellular network. The internet isn’t everywhere, there is a sudden & significant influx of Chinese populations here and in the south which has increased rubbish & pollution even more (talking about that is of course complex and difficult), and the nicest thing to say about the government is that they’re not such a big fan of the environment.

Kids help their parents burn. If you’re in the villages, you breathe this in every day. We’ve been handing out face masks and letting people know the effects and to keep kids away but this is a desperate situation – and it’s kind of necessary. Where else is it all going to go? Change takes enormous education, effort and time, it’s even harder in poverty and there really isn’t much else we can do immediately in the moment. We’re trying to develop a community education plan, want to hold information & idea sessions, implement programs in school, and build homes and schools and furniture with the waste.

We obviously want to look to the communities for this too. It wasn’t all that long ago that life here was still without plastic and our first job always is to listen and understand what is important. So we document, we listen, we try to think of solutions and we look to inspiring groups around the world creating change. Also none of us in the world have this figured out so we are under no illusion we will solve this and we tell everyone here that too – this is not your fault. We are all trying to work this out.

Read an article we wrote on this here (and see a lot more pictures of this crisis).