Municipal Solid Waste Management Project in Kouk Raka Primary School
Situated in the district of Wat Chum – Sangkat Krang Thhnong, Khan Por Sen Chey, Kouk Raka Primary School sits on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, Cambodia. A year ago, stepping into the school, you would have been greeted with plastic bottles strewn across a grass field or debris haphazardly cast off into piles. But thanks to the Municipal Solid Waste Management (MSWM) Project, steps have been taken to remedy this.
Though recycling and waste disposal may seem intuitive in theory, the problem of erroneously-sorted waste poses major threats to sustainability and sanitation. The MSWM Project sought to alleviate these issues within the school.
Having attended the Community Assessment Capacity Building workshop (links to Facebook) organised in partnership between several YSEALI Academic Fellows from East-West Center and WISE, team members Kan Rithy and Chan Nalalyn were given the opportunity to obtain seed funding for this project’s implementation. Through education, the team, led by Tim Samnang from Cambo Consultant International Co., aimed to reduce the loads of Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) generated, as well as improve the effectiveness of waste separation for the school’s 210 students.
Students were taught to practise the 3 ‘R’s using games and hands-on activities during the 6-week duration (from 24th of March to 28th of April, 2018). One such activity included getting the children to gather waste from the school compound in order to learn how to classify them; Another aimed to inculcate these lessons via sorting photographs of different types of waste into categories. Lessons were also designed to provoke discussions on long term sustainability, with questions such as “How many plastic bottles and bags do you think you will use in your lifetime?” being posed to students.
The response was overwhelming. In the words of team member Khem Davon, “… The thirst for knowledge from those young kids was really inspiring. I see how eagerly they want to absorb the input we provided throughout environmental training and how actively they put them in practice with the new trash bins. I’ve learned that it is worth running this project; we can make people happy.”. Reusable water bottles given out as participation prizes were also highly sought-after and used by students to reduce the number of single-use plastics they consumed. During breaks, the newfound knowledge students had gained became the main topic of their conversations, showing the immediate efficacy of the project.
In order to gain insight into the effectiveness of the lessons, the team tested the students on waste for a maximum score of 10. Topics tested include the definition of waste, its different uses, as well as how to sort it before and after lessons were conducted. Initially, students in 2nd Grade and 4th Grade classes all scored below five points, while 40% of 6th Grade students scored five or more points. After the project’s implementation, the number of students who scored above 5 rate rose to 71% on average. In addition, checks were conducted on the usage of the coloured bins, which served to separate organic waste, PET bottles, and paper/plastics. Though 15% of waste in the organic waste bin contained materials that were wrongly classified, students were able to sort waste into the PET bottle and paper/plastics bins with 100% accuracy. Thus, these results served as a testament to the success of the initiative.
“Though it was not a big contribution, I believe this course of action can alert the young generation to give more attention on the environment they are living in,’ explained team member Chan Nalalyn.
✍ Julia Ng Xin Yu