Cambodia and Other Southeast Asian Nations Shouldn’t Be Stuck with Western Trash

A few years ago, I spent an enchanting weekend in Siam Reap, Cambodia. Most of my trip was packed with luxury and adventure: relaxing in a spa filled with scents of flowers and lemongrass, sleeping in and eating decadent breakfasts at a glitzy hotel, exploring the ruins of ancient temples straight from the scenes of “Tomb Raider,” and racing ATVs in open paddies. But in the corners of the city, especially along roads and in villages less traveled by Western tourists, another side of Cambodia emerged – and it was much less picturesque.

Heaps of discarded plastic and other types of solid waste littered the landscape, underlining the undeniable fact that many cities in Cambodia were, and still are, struggling with a massive waste management problem.

Now, on top of Cambodia’s own vast sea of garbage, a troubling trend in global waste disposal is threatening to create a tsunami. On July 16, 83 shipping containers filled with 1,600 tons of plastic waste were discovered at Cambodia’s main port in Sihanoukville. Cambodian officials were displeased, to say the least.

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