The use of plastic bags is deep rooted within the everyday life of Cambodia. Plastic bags offer conveniences that manifest themselves in a number of unique ways on the streets, at the markets and inside homes. The bags no longer represent just a simple packaging solution, but a sign of the kingdom’s rapidly transitioning society – culturally and economically.

They also represent a growing problem. The non-biodegradable nature of plastic as a material and its adverse impact on ecosystems, has led to either bans or taxes in countries across the globe. Cambodia’s affluent neighbors are amongst the worst offenders in terms of oceanic plastic pollution and the nation is on a similar consumption trajectory. Today, plastic bags are already a substantial portion of both visible and disposed waste in Cambodia. Choked water systems, littered streets and fast filling landfills all point to the evolving problem at hand. It is in this context that ACRA envisioned an overarching approach to reduce the negative impact of plastic bags in major cities of Cambodia. The project is funded by the European Union within the framework of the Switch Asia Programme and it is implemented by Fondazione ACRA, the Phnom Penh Capital Department of Environment and the Royal University of Phnom Penh.

The use of plastic bags is deep rooted within the everyday life of Cambodia. Plastic bags offer conveniences that manifest themselves in a number of unique ways on the streets, at the markets and inside homes. The bags no longer represent just a simple packaging solution, but a sign of the kingdom’s rapidly transitioning society – culturally and economically.

They also represent a growing problem. The non-biodegradable nature of plastic as a material and its adverse impact on ecosystems, has led to either bans or taxes in countries across the globe. Cambodia’s affluent neighbors are amongst the worst offenders in terms of oceanic plastic pollution and the nation is on a similar consumption trajectory. Today, plastic bags are already a substantial portion of both visible and disposed waste in Cambodia. Choked water systems, littered streets and fast filling landfills all point to the evolving problem at hand. It is in this context that ACRA CCS envisioned an overarching approach to reducing the negative impact of plastic bag waste in major cities of Cambodia. The project is funded by Switch Asia EU and supported by The Ministry of Environment, Cambodia (MoE) and the Royal University of Phnom Penh (RUPP).

Themes for Intervention

To tackle current and evolving challenges of the plastic bag problem in Cambodia, this project focuses on three main interventions –

Themes for Intervention

To tackle current and evolving challenges of the plastic bag problem in Cambodia, this project focuses on three main interventions –

Behavior Change Campaign

Design of Alternatives to Plastic Bags

Policy Development

Launching a behavioural change communication (BCC) campaign that will help consumers adopt sustainable behaviours regarding the use and disposal of plastic bags.

Designing product-service alternatives that are viable, visible, accessible and affordable.

Supporting the efforts of the Ministry of Environment, Cambodia (MoE) to create an appropriate policy framework for minimizing waste impact from plastic bags and substitute packaging.


Human-Centered Design

Human-Centered Design

The experiences of countries tackling the plastic bag problem show that any solution to reduce the use of plastic bags must be designed with a profound understanding of local behaviours, attitudes, desires, needs and motivations. Human-Centered Design (HCD) as a methodology helps bring sharp focus on the complexity of problems that go beyond the obvious. In the case of plastic bags in Cambodia, HCD will help us mine human experiences for actionable insights, function as an important storytelling and collaboration tool, and realize the end through an iterative prototyping approach. There are many different actors that need to come together to control plastic bags. The ways and needs of the government machinery, industry, consumers, and civil society need to be understood and designed for in one consistent approach.

Design of Alternatives to Plastic Bags

Design of Alternatives to Plastic Bags

The proposed alternatives will meet packaging and other secondary functional needs of consumers and retailers currently met by plastic bags. Any product-service alternative needs to be viable, visible, accessible and affordable so that it can challenge the established plastic ecosystem in a sustainable manner. The proposed alternatives could be either material or systemic solutions. Their successful introduction would require a deep understanding of consumer and retail behavior, identification of the right platforms for change, and laying out a roadmap for production and adoption. Any solution will have to be iteratively refined in keeping with the essence of the HCD process.

Since the use of plastic bags is so widespread, the design process looks to prioritize ‘Use Cases’ of plastic bags that can be targeted by alternatives. The focus is on eliminating single use plastic bags as a priority. It is estimated that globally 95% of plastic bags are disposed off after only one or two times of use. In Cambodia, the linkage of everyday consumption and plastic bags is so strong that any attempt to shift the way they are used will need to be carefully considered and implemented. It is not the intention of the project to disrupt current commerce but to encourage innovation and industry that can take Cambodia forward.


Research Targets

The core focus of research in the design stream is to understand the behaviours, attitudes, desires, needs and motivations as related to plastic bags for –

Research Targets

The core focus of research in the design stream is to understand the behaviours, attitudes, desires, needs and motivations as related to plastic bags for –

Retailers/Markets

Consumers/Users

Producers/Suppliers

Waste Managers

Map traditional and modern retail in Cambodia and chart out overarching current and future trends. Understand the importance of plastic bags for businesses.

Map consumption behaviour in Cambodia through the context of cultural, economic and social realities. Understand the place of plastic bags in the everyday lives of Cambodians.

Map supply chain components and actors as relevant to plastic bags in Cambodia. Understand broader manufacturing and logistical patterns prevalent within Cambodia.

Map the waste management ecosystem within Cambodia and draw out systems and behaviours as relevant to waste disposal, reuse and recycling. Understand behaviours as relevant to plastic bags.


Facilitated By

Lead Project Partners

        

Funded By