Urbanization has brought a huge flood of job-seekers and increasing city dwellers to reside and work in the capital city Phnom Penh, where factories and businesses are soaring remarkably. Physical infrastructure, such as buildings, roads, schools, hospitals, and markets, has been being built and renovated to cope with the growing population. The capital development struggles amongst emerging municipal issues including traffic congestion and accidents, crimes and particularly stressful waste management. The population growth together with its accumulative consumption of various products and food has resulted in tons of scattering waste in the capital. Despite their effort in dealing with the municipal waste, the Municipality of Phnom Penh and its only one contracted garbage collector, CINTRI, have been criticized as being ineffective in making the capital clean; however, the lack of knowledge about ideal waste disposal of all stakeholders in the city should be also strongly emphasized.
Garbage disposal is taken for granted by most individual household. Garbage is normally co-disposed of with other waste. In almost every community, not to mention about the waste-classifying bins, there are no/not sufficient trash bins and no specific assigned locations for household waste disposal. To illustrate, in some blocks people usually bring their waste-full plastic bags to dispose of at any possible locations either with or without trash bins at the main roads where Cintri’s trucks are accessible.
In some areas, the household waste is too excessive to be disposed of in one bin, so the garbage is disposed of and piled up outside the bins in disarray while in some other places with no trash bin, trashes are left scattering and flying all over the place while other garbage is left contaminating the soil with putrid smell. What is worse, the scrap scavengers usually come to the areas to search for income-generable waste such as plastic bottles, beer cans or metals and therefore mess up the areas.
In many households, beer gardens and restaurants along the riverside, garbage is discarded right under the houses, into the dense bushes behind the house or the water sources nearby or burned carelessly in an open air without realizing the consequences of such waste disposal practice on the environment and their well-beings. The worse example of such practice is that some beer gardens located on the bank of Tonle Sap River along National Road 5 in Russeykeo district get rid of their garbage especially beer glass bottles into the bushes at the river bank right behind their business places.
More elaborately, people drop litter negligently everywhere at public places including riverfronts, recreational parks, and stadiums. Those litterbugs range from small children to educated men and women who share the public space.
Why does Capital Garbage Matter?
Disposed of improperly, the garbage produces pungent smell which is harmful to our health and the surrounding environment; life is not comfortable and healthy. In hot and humid weather, virulent garbage-borne germs and bacteriophages multiply and spread very easily and quickly and likewise provoke health hazards. Most capital roads, for example at Phsaa Kandal, become waterway, which disrupts vendors’ business activities and causes headache traffic jam. The rain water carries away the germs and bacteriophages to the market and nearby areas like houses while flies bring those germs to food; consequently, those germs cause diarrhea, flu and other diseases which significantly threatens people’s well-beings.
Besides, improper garbage disposal produces a knock-on effect on Phnom Penh road condition. For instance, the roads at Phsar Kandal, Phsar Chas, and Phsar Deum kor encounter deplorable condition because the roads there are both flood-prone and full of scattering garbage. To simply put, the market garbage most frequently blocks the city’s sewage and drainage system in a heavy downpour and provoke smelly effluent flood which then leaves behind potholes on the roads around these markets.
What is worse, people burning waste at home are not aware of its detrimental effects on their health and the atmosphere. The emission of such waste burning at home spreads within the neighborhood, in the house yards and at the surrounding environment. Contemporary scientific findings show that this type of waste disposal causes several harmful effects. For one reason, burning some materials such plastic or rubber intensifies air pollutions and produces toxic smoke which leads to bad health hazard especially for children and those who have respiration problems or asthmatic bronchitis. On top of that, according to a fact sheet produced by Women in Europe for a Common Future (WECF), this practice can lead to heart disease, a breakdown of the nerve system, vision problems, and kidney or lung failure. Extensive exposure to the smoke can also cause depression, severe headache, and fatigue. Moreover, such burning without care can trigger fires damaging life and property and annoy the neighborhood.
Improper waste disposal causes not only health problems but also physical injuries. People such as garbage collectors, scrap scavengers, people including children at former dump site at Stung Meanchey and a new one at Choeung Ek commune, located in an outskirt of Phnom Penh, are prone to physical injuries because hazardous waste, such as hospital syringes, scattered glass, or other sharp metals, are not classified and co-disposed of with other waste at the dump sites.
In most public parks and recreation areas, waste is thrown away all over the places. When foreign visitors come to this tiny capital city, they might be welcomed by friendly smiles of people, hectic scene of traffic congestion and/or huge sprawling piles of garbage depository along the roads or in front of the markets. The last issue gives the visitors bad impression of Phnom Penh as well as its residents and therefore discourages them to either revisit or recommend their friends to come despite the city’s fascinating tourism sites. As a result, this can hurt not only the city’s revenue but also its image.
Addressing the Capital’s Improper Garbage Disposal
No one should be solely blamed for improper garbage disposal as it is the collective responsibility of Municipality of Phnom Penh (MPP) and relevant ministries, Cintri Company and every household. To remedy the situation, every stakeholder should cooperate fully.
The municipality of Phnom Penh and relevant ministries: In commune level and district level, there should be campaigns or meetings to disseminate knowledge regarding proper garbage disposal and raise the awareness of the cumulative effects of the improper disposal. Proper waste management should be put into the schools’ curriculum and students’ extracurricular activities. Besides, the authority should encourage people to classify their waste before discarding it by placing trash bins of, if feasible, distinct kinds of waste in public areas such as schools, public parks and markets, and regularly observing the implementation of such waste classification program. Besides, people throwing waste in public areas should be strongly prohibited and fined.
Garbage collector: To facilitate and make garbage men safer, trash bins should be classified due to such different kinds of waste as hazardous or non-hazardous. Cintri, as well as MPP, should determine specific locations where household or market waste must be disposed of. Should anyone discard the waste aside from the assigned locations, they will be fined. Timely and regular garbage collection should be done in the early morning before the business hour or at night after the business hour to avoid congestion and the spread of putrid smell.
Household: Waste should always be disposed of in strong garbage bags while open-air rubbish burning should be eliminated or done with care. The burning of plastic bags and rubber-made waste should be avoided. Some hazardous waste like glass, sharp metal and battery should be disposed of separately from other waste. On top of that, every individual should play a role as an observer of any improper disposing activities and report to the relevant authority.