Skip to content

Cambodia – Biodegradable Bags Carry Hope for Green Future

By Chhuon Chhiv Ing CAMBODIANESS March 10, 2023

cam 3

The cassava is processed to make them decompose in six years, compared to the plastic bags’ 450 years. Photo provided

PHNOM PENH – Rapidly decomposing bags made of cassava starch are playing a part in freeing the country from plastics. 

Many people know how much plastic bags harm the environment but the bags are still widely used.

Japanese-American Kai Kuramoto, the founder of the Cleanbodia company, makes environmentally friendly, biodegradable and compostable bags from cassava starch.

Starting in 2015 — a year after he arrived in Cambodia — the bags have been made to give people more options. Their aim is to reduce plastic bags, particularly focusing on sellers who use them most.  

The increasing population, livelihood, and expanding economy have led to the rise of the use of plastic bags for food and packaging.  The cassava bags are made to lure people away from plastic.

“Biodegradable bags are important in ceasing plastic pollution. These bags are made of renewable natural resources, like plants. What’s more important is that the bags will decompose hundreds of years faster than the plastic bags,” Kai said.

The cassava is processed to make them decompose in six years, compared to the plastic bags’ 450 years.

Kai says some biodegradable bags are made with additional chemicals but his are not. The bags can be made of raw material such as corn or cane but these are essential food resources.

He chose cassava because it grew easily in Cambodia, was diverse and cheap. It was the most suitable raw material to make environmentally friendly bags.

The bags come in small, medium, and large sizes. Small bags carry a maximum of 4kg and are used for takeaways, market shopping, and small waste bin liners. Medium ones are used for house or office bins for weights up to 12kg. Large bags are used in restaurants or business places and can carry 15kg.

Many NGOs and the government have become fond of these bags. Others include hotels, coffee shops, offices, schools, companies, and households. The bags have nearly 100 permanent customer institutions.

Nov Voleak, Cleanbodia general manager, also spoke of the challenges for the company. The bags cost more than plastic bags, which had become an issue as most people could not afford them.

Many people did not recognize the use of environmentally friendly bags as replacement for plastic bags yet.

Kai said foreigners were their first costumers because they were more aware of the issues and had used environmentally friendly products more than Cambodians.

However, Cambodians had started showing more interest and used the bags because of the spread of education about environmental issues, especially plastic pollution.

Health food shop Gerbie Salad and Sandwich, one of the permanent costumers, said they chose biodegradable bags because the company had a goal to support the environment and contribute to reducing plastic use in Cambodia.

The shop had not had any problems with the bags and did not charge more for them despite the extra cost.

According to an Environment Ministry’s report and the United Nations Development Programme. 10 million plastic bags are used daily in Phnom Penh, meaning that each person uses around 2,000 plastic bags per year.

As for management, plastic waste is collected by private companies and is left at suburban or provincial landfill or dumpsites.

The circular or recycling economy has been implemented by Cambodians. However, many solutions to the plastics issues are ineffective and problems of soil quality, low sanitary standards and water-borne disease remain.

Biodegradable bags, on the other hand, are compostable and decompose quickly, and reduce water and soil pollution.  They have been used in countries including Germany, Italy, France, the UK, Spain and China.

The Asian Development Bank will hold a conference called Southeast Asia Development Symposium (SEADS) 2023, “Imagining a Net Zero ASEAN,” on Mar. 30, which will bring together thought leaders, decision makers, and climate action advocates from government, industry, academia, and the development sector to discuss innovative solutions that can help countries focus on becoming net zero economies and rebound from the COVID-19 crisis.

SEADS 2023 will examine how the region can harness new green, innovative, and cost-effective approaches; adopt new technological solutions; accelerate the availability of finance; and deploy other effective measures to support decarbonization in a wide range of sectors while revitalizing economies.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: