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Okayama University aims to eradicate marine plastic through plastic waste separation project ― Participation from residents of a floating village on Asia's largest lake

2022.08.18

Large amounts of plastic debris from Asian countries are discharged into the ocean and are one cause of marine plastic pollution in the Pacific Ocean. Compounding this, people living in areas without garbage collection services have little choice but to dump their garbage in the surrounding area.

Tonlé Sap Lake, the largest lake in Asia, is located in the center of the Kingdom of Cambodia. An estimated one million low-income people live in floating villages on the lake. However, a lack of local collection services from the government means their garbage is directly disposed of in the lake. When water levels increase during the rainy season, this garbage is rapidly carried downstream.

Professor Takeshi Fujiwara's lab at the Low Carbon and Waste Recycling Research Center, Graduate School of Environmental and Life Science, Okayama University, has launched a project through the JICA Partnership Program to help control this garbage with participation from locals.

The project targets a single village on the lake. It aims to implement a sorting and collection system suitable for the location based on surveys of the amount of plastic waste dumped, using methods ensuring that plastic waste is collected correctly. A promotion team will be formed in the village, and the team leader will be invited to Okayama City for training on the Japanese waste separation system to encourage community members to actively participate in waste separation. The project also involves the creation of a manual to raise residents' awareness, with information briefings and workshops held to increase participation rates in sorting these plastic materials.

The most effective way to prevent marine plastic pollution is to provide collection and processing services to residents at the source. However, those who cannot afford the collection fees cannot use these services. This project plans to raise environmental awareness among these residents and encourage them to cooperate in sorting and collecting the plastic, with the proceeds from recycling the collected plastic covering the cost of collection. There are many floating villages similar to those at Tonlé Sap Lake around the world. If this initiative can help create a system for plastic waste separation, it will also be helpful for those communities.

Professor Fujiwara commented, "Marine plastic is an issue requiring urgent measures, because once it enters the Pacific Ocean, it remains there for a long period and affects ecosystems in an ongoing manner. Since the targeted village dumps all their garbage into the lake, preventing them from dumping plastic waste is vital. The sorting and collection system we created is being implemented with active participation from residents.

This article has been translated by JST with permission from The Science News Ltd.(https://sci-news.co.jp/). Unauthorized reproduction of the article and photographs is prohibited.

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