Shift To Circular Economy Needed To Tackle Waste Woes


In the face of mounting pressure from the increasing speed of waste generation, Cambodia should begin a transition towards a non-waste, circular economy as soon as possible, the United Nations Development Programme said yesterday.

Nick Beresford, UNDP country director. KT/Mai Vireak

Transitioning from the current linear economy – based on the consecutive stages of extraction, production, consumption and disposal – to a circular alternative will not only reduce environmental degradation, it will also enhance the efficiency of the economy, said UNDP country director Nick Beresford.

This is of particular importance given rapid population growth in the Kingdom and ever-growing waste generation rates, he said.

Speaking at a seminar on the circular economy in Phnom Penh’s Sokha Hotel yesterday, Mr Beresford said that improving resource efficiency and promoting the adoption of renewables was key for the country’s future.

According to UNDP, a circular economy is a system where produced materials, rather than being disposed, are reused and recycled as valuable resources in a closed system. Under this model, waste is treated as new products or energy to be reused and recycled.

“Wide adoption of circular economy models can significantly reduce the use of natural resources and energy, as well as the volume of waste, greenhouse gas emission, and air pollution.

“But the benefits of circular economy go beyond environmental issues.

“Improving efficiency in material use and energy is also a way of reducing the cost of production and of increasing the competitiveness of businesses. Moreover, circular economy can also generate new economic value, in terms of turning waste into energy,” he said.

He added that becoming a circular economy will help the country achieve its Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.

E Vuthy, deputy secretary general of the National Council for Sustainable Development (NCSD), said the goal of his institution is to turn the national economy into a sustainable enterprise based on a closed loop to achieve the highest degree of efficiency and productivity possible and protect the Kingdom’s natural heritage.

However, he added that the government has yet to issue a timeline for the ambitious goal. It must also determine what sectors should be prioritised in the transition, what type of waste should be targeted, and how the private sector will be incentivise.

“We can say that these will be the first steps towards a circular economy,” he said, adding that the government will first focus on getting the textile, cement production and food and beverage industries to adopt more environment-friendly practices.

He said adopting a greener economy must be a joint effort of all actors in the country’s economy, including the government, businesses, civil society and development partners.

Francesco Carocci, project manager at Sustainable Green Fuel Enterprise, a manufacturer of briquettes, told Khmer Times that that his company is already part of the circular value chain.

His company manufactures high quality, sustainable alternatives to wood charcoal. Called briquettes, they are made of recycled biomass, mostly coconut, and burn longer than traditional charcoal, with no sparks, smell or smoke.

“Now our products are well-known among Cambodians. We produce about 110 tonnes of fuel per month here, but demand is still high, so we plan to expand our factory soon,” Mr Carocci said.

According to the Ministry of Environment, solid waste disposal in municipal landfills has drastically increased in the last 15 years, from 318,000 tonnes in 2004 to 1.5 million tonnes last year. The situation is particularly alarming in major cities, such as Phnom Penh, which produces 2,300 tonnes of waste every day.

This article was originally published in the Khmer Times.