Say No to Plastic! Oxfam Team Cleans The Streets

It was only when we started to really look at the streets with the purpose of picking up litter that we all opened our eyes, realizing that we had been suffering from “trash blindness.”

World Cleanup Day is an annual, global civic initiative that has been happening for the last 10 years. But this was the first year Cambodia, through the Ministry of Environment, officially joined the other 155 countries. The staff of Oxfam in Cambodia, their families and friends were part of it.

The few hours we spent filling up eco-bags with litter, especially plastic, was not just about cleaning up the streets. It was most importantly about raising awareness of the local residents and ourselves about the plastic epidemic and trash disposal issues.

Raising awareness

At first, our team’s impression was that the Night Market area was actually pretty clean! But it was only when we started to really look at the streets with the purpose of picking up litter that we all opened our eyes, realizing that we had been suffering from “trash blindness.” While waste collection employees accomplish the important and grueling task of picking up the bulk of the waste in often very challenging and unhygienic conditions, there are still many very small pieces of trash that make their way to the street due to improper waste disposal. In about an hour, we had filled up 15 bags with a variety of waste and separated plastic bottles from the rest of the trash.

“All of these small pieces of plastic are easy to ignore, but during the rainy season all that trash will inevitably end up in the water streams, harming the waterways, causing floods and even being eaten by the fish we eat,” said Liza Ordonez-Cooke, a coordinator of Oxfam in Cambodia’s Green Team, a staff-led volunteer team that aims to bring eco-solutions to staff and the country office.

A healthier, more sustainable planet starts with us!

While cleaning up our environment and being conscious about properly disposing of our waste should be an everyday preoccupation, our collective and visible action of cleaning up triggered reactions from local residents. We received water bottles and thumbs up as a gesture of support. We overheard people debating among themselves about bad littering practices. We were approached by people who came up to throw their empty drink cups into our bags and people asking why we were doing this.


Waste collection has improved over the years but there are still challenges. Photo: Natacha Kim/Oxfam


Oxfam colleagues, friends and family after collecting trash. Photo: Banung Ou

Check this LINK for the full blog by Natacha Kim