Tonlé Sap Project

Tonlé Sap Project

2019-03-29

by Heike Finsterlin

We were looking for a project to fit the 4 “E”s, an idea, to fight plastic pollution from scratch. People, who help to stop the continuous feeding of the lakes, rivers and oceans with new plastic – to give the ones cleaning-up the chance to finally see results!

Luckily, we met Doug Woodring from Ocean Recovery Alliance in Hong Kong. Calling Doug the “Grandmaster” of Ocean Protection and Plastic Waste Education/Reduction, I think, is not an exaggeration. After expressing our disappointment, he smiled and said, “maybe you should have talked to me earlier!”

That’s how we found Sophal and his amazing “Eco Warriors” from NGO2 in Siem Reap, Cambodia, whom Doug had supported for a while already.

Talking about Siem Reap, most of us think of the ancient city of Angkor Wat ... but it’s also a place where tourists leave behind roughly 300,000 plastic bottles every day, and local communities are neither aware of the global plastic issue, nor have the necessary knowledge how to reduce and recycle waste. With the result of huge amounts of new plastic every day ending up in the waterways and finally in the Ocean. And that’s where Sophal and his “Eco Warriors” come in.

Together with NGO2 we are now organizing regular clean-ups around Tonlé Sap close to Angkor, which is one of the main pollutants of the Mekong River, one of the top three rivers in the world “feeding” the oceans with plastic. But the core of our project is the education of so called “Eco Warriors”, a local force of around 100 enthusiastic young people from different villages around Tonlé Sap, that set the base for a long-term strategy in fighting the plastic pollution. We educate them about the plastic issue and how to solve it – and then they are off on “mission Pssbl” to their local villages and schools, helping to educate current and future generations.

And this is exactly the long-term strategy we were looking for: cleaning up the old “shit” and spreading sensitivity on the issue in local communities to leave an impact that can lead to a change!

Our founders Marc visited Cambodia in November 2018 and joined some clean-ups at Tonlé Sap. He was impressed from the positive feedback the whole project received from the communities around the lake and the inspiration it gives to the people. The communities realized that Tonlé Sap and the Mekong is their lifeline – it provides their fish, and water for the rice fields. If they don’t stop the pollution, the consequences are dreadful for their children and grandchildren. That’s why they are open to learn and are grateful for the financial support in building infrastructure for waste collection and recycling.

Together with the village chief in Kampong Khleang and the Park Rangers of the Bird Sanctuary in Boeng Pearaing we are working on several projects to close the E4 Circle. We set up a recycling hub in Kampong Khleang to collect recyclable plastic and upcycle it for further use, introduced a first plastic-free zone in the village, with the plan to extend it further and further.

And last but not least we had our first water falling festival beginning of December 2018, a 2-day clean-up at Tonlé Sap with more than 1,200 people joining and collecting more than 10tons of plastic on one single week-end.

We see the education of our “Eco-Warriors”, and the collection and management of plastic waste at Tonlé Sap as lead projects for awareness and “can do” attitude and hope we can further extend it to other villages around Tonlé Sap and further in the future.

But we at Pssbl go even one step further.

On top of our ongoing engagement in cleanups, education and upcycling, we want to support the fight against plastic pollution by donating a considerable part of our profit to the Tonlé Sap project.

With the purchase of each Pssbl bag, we will remove 1 Kg of Plastic from the rivers and canals at Tonlé Sap to avoid that it ends of in our oceans.

And we strongly believe that our vision will become real:
Better bags and a better world – that’s Pssbl.