Since September 2015, the United Nations has implemented a set of 17 sustainable goals; dubbed as the ‘Sustainable Development Goals’ (SGDs). These goals aim is to eventually transform our world by ending poverty, protecting the planet and ensuring prosperity for all; to be in line with this new sustainable development agenda.
Each goal has specific targets to be achieved over the next 15 years and for these goals to be eventually reached; the UN calls for everyone to do their very own parts to contribute to this huge end-goal.
With this in mind, many local entrepreneurs and startups have actually also seen the impending need to do something more sustainable and impactful in their business offerings; leading them to innovate something in line with these given SDGs.
On a more local perspective, did you know that the average Cambodian uses between 5 to 10 traditional plastic bags each day? This makes it very apparent that Cambodia is a country that has plastic usage ingrained very deeply in its overall lifestyle. The Ministry of Environment has even reported that more than 10 million plastic bags are estimated to be used each day in Phnom Penh back in 2016.
Naturally, this has resulted in various unpleasant impacts and is obviously not very sustainable in the long run. For instance, plastic consumption causes environmental degradation because plastic bags are non-biodegradable, meaning that they do not easily decompose and stick around for up to 1,000 years. This leads to plastic waste ending up in places like oceans, which not only cause water pollution, but endangers marine life.
The negative consequences are not only entitled to the environment, but also to the public’s health. In Cambodia, many restaurants often use plastic bags to carry items like hot food and soup. However, as these bags are made out of chemical substances, it results in food contamination, thus eventually posing risks to human health in the years to come.
To truly see the gravity of the plastic usage situation in Cambodia in the recent years, take a look at this infographic:
Hence, in the Christmas spirit of giving back, here is a list of 3 Cambodia-based startups who are doing their very own parts in giving back to Mother Earth and contributing to an eventual sustainable future for Cambodia! In this article, we feature eco-friendly startups like Cleanbodia, EcoSense and PlasFoodDou.
Bringing eco-friendly, creative and simple innovations to the shores of Cambodia since December 2015, Cleanbodia is a local startup that strives to reduce single-use plastic bag waste, especially on business levels.
As part of their sustainable plastic bag alternative, the startup has implemented the use of the Cassava root, which is native to Southeast Asia. Considering its low costs and large supply in the region, Cleanbodia can produce its bags at a much lower cost than most alternatives currently found in the market. On top of that, since the Cassava plant can be found regionally; this leads to lower overall emissions.
At the moment, Cleanbodia supplies its biodegradable and compostable carrier and garbage bag to over 110 businesses from all sorts of sectors, who have highlighted the impending need to take on more eco-friendly practices. This includes hotels, restaurants, offices, schools and NGOs. On top of that, they have partner stores all over the Kingdom; not just in bustling cities like Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, but also in provinces like Kampot and Battambang.
Besides selling its bags in 8 of the biggest cities in Cambodia, the startup eventually hopes to expand its offerings to biodegradable food boxes, biodegradable plastic for cups, and other alternative container solutions.
Kicked off by a bunch of environmental enthusiasts who want to preserve the beauty and nature of Cambodia, EcoSense was inspired to launch such a business after a visit to Phnom Penh in June 2015. From the first day of their travels, they could clearly see how the towns and rivers were highly congested with huge amounts of waste – plastic bags and polystyrene packaging in particular. Apart from having an extremely harmful impact to the environment, the waste was also contributing to the obstruction of sewer systems; resulting in regular blockages and flooding in the city.
Upon research, the EcoSense team realised that this plastic and styrofoam waste significantly stemmed from the catering sector, which included fast food outlets, takeaway joints and traditional restaurant businesses. On top of that, the team did a market survey and found out that these businesses were actually open to more eco-friendly packaging solutions.
Thus, formulating an innovative solution to combat this problem, EcoSense decided to create quality biodegradable food packaging cartons, a sustainable alternative to styrofoam and plastic. Made with sugarcane which is entirely compostable, the packaging cartons they produce do not carry any GMOs, also known as genetically modified organisms, or carcinogenic substances which cause cancer. Furthermore, they also have the ability to sustain temperatures of -40° to 250°C and are leak proof as well.
Besides their superior product offerings, the startup has also decided to broaden their concept by improving the appearance of the local land that surrounds them. To carry this out, EcoSense has introduced a series of waste collecting initiatives that invite volunteers to help tackle the problem of unsightly waste in the city of Phnom Penh or at the banks of the Black River – once a month or fortnightly. EcoSense’s partners also help to promote or sponsor the event; so as to spread the word through their professional and general public circles.
Started by a group of 3 friends, PlasFoodDou aims to revolutionise plastic waste reduction in the Kingdom. Understanding that plastic bags are mostly single-use plastics that are rarely reused or recycled, they knew that they needed to find a way to combat the amount of plastics being thrown away.
Hence, their mission covers 4 different areas: Educating and raising awareness about plastic bag usage, Refusing, Reducing and Replacing plastic bags, Reusing and Recycling existing plastic bags, as well as, banning and eliminating plastic bags in the long run.
Leveraging on today’s modern technology and usage of mobile phone applications, PlasFoodDou came up with the innovative solution to create a phone application to eventually ban and eliminate plastic bag usage in Cambodia.
Delving deeper into the main focus of the phone application, it mainly focuses on reducing the use of plastic bags when individuals go shopping. This is done by using the app as a platform to encourage people to bring their own cloth bags to store their purchases. When they do so, they are then provided with a QR code that not only allows them to garner points, but also entails them to special discounts.
These points can later be exchanged for rewards, such as phone top-ups, coupons and so forth. Using this rewards system, it then encourages people to use the app more as they feel fulfilled upon doing this simple, eco-friendly practice. Apart from that, they also encourage people to buy food before their expiration dates, so they will not unnecessarily end up in landfills and become food waste.
Though they are still a pretty new startup in the EcoTech scene, they already managed to clinch the ‘Special Award Winner’ title back in the EcoPreneurs for the Climate Champion Awards in October 2017 as well; which allowed them the chance to pitch their idea at the UN’s Climate Conference: COP23 in Bonn, Germany held in November! For more information about them, visit their Facebook page here.
In conclusion, these 3 startups are just stellar examples of how simple initiatives can go a long way, especially if you put your heart and mind to it! You can learn more about what they do in detail and get inspired by visiting their websites and Facebook pages under the individual sections of the article.
But for now, we at Geeks In Cambodia just want to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas too! Stay tuned to our page for the next following weeks as we will be sharing many great opportunities to indulge in for startups entrepreneurs and tech geeks alike; in lieu of this festive season and new year!