Waste incinerators play an important role in reducing pollution and improving public health and the environment. In Cambodian society however, behavioural change is limited.
Sok Vannak, an engineer in this field for over 40 years in France, told The Post that Cambodian people – as well the people of most developing countries with insufficient waste collection and management systems –still burn all kinds of waste, thinking it’s the best solution. In fact, it is not.
Vannak, also the president of Sok Enterprise Co Ltd had a warning.
“When not in accordance with technical standards, burning waste has a serious impact on public health and the environment,” he said.
He explained that the smoke emitted from burning waste – including medical waste – could pollute the air with toxins if it was not burned correctly. Absorbing such smoke could cause respiratory problems or even cancer.
Having witnessed these outcomes – and with the support of the Ministry of Environment – his company has begun producing waste incinerators which are in accordance with international technical standards. They will be installed in 49 districts across 21 provinces and the capital to help reduce the risk caused by waste.
In addition, his company was installing waste incinerators at national police and army training facilities, and in hospitals and schools.
According to Vannak, the incinerators produced by his company are capable of incinerating between five and seven tonnes of waste per day.
Vannak did not disclose the prices of his incinerators, but according to Huong Sophoan – sales representative for Cambodia for T-Tech, a Vietnamese company which specialises in waste incinerators –such high quality incinerators would cost no less than $100,000.
“I have seen his incinerators through social media. They are built to a high standard and are the equal of anything imported. Of course, Sok Enterprises is a local manufacturer, so it is possible that their prices are lower,” he said.
He added that his company is promoting similar products in the Cambodian market, and had recently made some sales in Sihanoukville and Bokor town.
“We have installed the first units in both of these locations,” he added.
He said the owners of all factories, enterprises and resorts in Cambodia should have waste and solid waste incinerators to help reduce their trash footprint.
A lot of rubbish can still be seen on public roads, in parks and resorts, and in bodies of water he said, noting that the waste was typically water bottles, cans, foam food containers, and food waste.
According to data from the Ministry of Environment, Cambodia produces more than 10,000 tonnes of trash every day – about 4 million per year. About 68 per cent is organic. 20 per cent is plastic, with the rest being solid or harmful waste.
Littering has a huge impact on society, according to Chan Davuth, an officer in the engineer corps of the 5th military zone, who lives in Dey Krahorm village, Anlong Reap commune, Veal Veng district, Pursat province. He loves the environment, and has created small incinerators for the use of rural communities.
“In most households, littering demonstrates bad hygienic habits. In addition, it can affect people’s health,” he said.
“It has a negative effect on society as well – it not only detracts from the beauty of public places, it makes the authorities look weak if they cannot manage waste,” he added.
To solve the problem, Davuth manufactures small incinerators from a 1.8m gas tank and a 3m steel pipe. They are provided to schools, pagodas and some communities in remote areas which district garbage trucks cannot access.
Although not beautiful, they can be used to burn kitchen waste and solid waste such as water bottles, ricefoam/plastic boxes, and beer cans easily. Each one can dispose of up to one tonne of waste per day.
“Each unit cost me less than $100 to manufacture. They are not as attractive as the incinerators made by big companies, but they are affordable, and can help local communities solve their trash congestion issues,” he said.
Davuth said that ridding public places of trash would be a long journey, as it required the participation of people from all walks of life. The public needed to develop the habit of dumping their garbage in bins correctly.
Each family and educational institutions should contribute to this becoming a habit, he said, adding that local authorities must educate people and increase the amount of rubbish bins they deploy.
The Ministry of Environment has implemented a series of outreach campaigns on the impact of littering.
It estimated that more than half of the residents of Phnom Penh were now disposing of their garbage responsibly.
Siem Reap provincial Department of Environment director Sun Kong had noted that there appeared to be much less littering going on than in previous years, especially in the Angkor resort.
“Both residents of Siem Reap and tourists are well aware of the impact of littering, and have contributed to cleaning up the environment,” he said.
Kheang Phearom, spokesman for the Preah Sihanouk provincial administration, told The Post that Cambodians were now embarrassed about littering on the streets – especially in tourist destinations – and participated in cleaning up the environment by putting their trash in rubbish bins in and orderly manner.
“Based on my observations, people are more aware and have changed their littering habits,” he said.
According to Phearom, littering in public places is a bad habit that affects the country’s honour, dignity and beauty. It also affects tourism, which is a source of national income.