A preschool in central Phnom Penh has become the first plastic-free institution in Cambodia. Hosting a series of workshops with local environmental conservation organisation Plastic Free Cambodia (PFC), Gecko Garden Preschool began the conscious effort last summer removing plastic materials from classrooms. A parent-coordinated push to replace toys with wooden and handmade components was formed to create a Toy Making Club with adults and kids.
“I can say that the absolute key to success was the determination of Gecko Garden staff to take those workshops and put things into action,” said Plastic Free Cambodia founder Sarah Rhodes. “At PFC, we truly believe that getting everyone along for the ride is important so we worked with staff to inspire leadership and empower them to get the students involved.”
Opened in 2001, Gecko Garden is the first parent-run international nursery for children aged 18 months to five-years-old. As new research into the extent of the world’s plastic pollution takes toll, many self-led initiatives have spawned from homegrown efforts. Schools around the world have been leading initiatives to go plastic-free. Following UK Education Secretary Damian Hinds’ recognition of a primary school in southwest England for cutting plastic from their program, he is encouraging all schools to go plastic-free by 2022. In Australia, elementary schoolchildren at St. Mary’s Catholic School in Sydney have been actively participating in recycling programs and getting rid of plastic cutlery by bringing their own utensils. In Indonesia, Green School Bali celebrated their decades long anniversary last year where their curriculum focuses on sustainable and impactful learning experiences after their normal school day.
Plastic pollution has been a growing concern in Asia. When China stopped importing the world’s used plastic last year, it shifted the waste crisis to many smaller Southeast Asian countries who lack the infrastructure to process and break down plastic. In April last year, The Guardian debuted an unsettling photo essay of accumulating plastic waste in the Cambodian city of Sihanoukville. Gecko Garden Preschool offers a glimmer of hope to help educate the future generations in this Southeast Asian nation.
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Lead image courtesy of Plastic Free Cambodia.