Disclaimer: This is an independent report and does not reflect the views of the Royal Government
COMBATTING PLASTIC STRAW USE IN CAMBODIA:
POLICY REPORT AND SUGGESTED REGULATIONS
PLASTIC STRAW USE AND IMPACTS
Plastic straws are cheap, useful, and convenient. For only a few US dollars you can get a pack of hundreds of plastic
straws. Straws can be found in many coffee shops around the country, in glasses of iced tea at restaurants, or used to drink
delicious sugarcane juice. Plastic straws are not recycled in Cambodia and take hundreds of years to decompose. Many
straws used daily end up in landfills, local waterways, and informal waste collection sites.
GLOBAL REGULATION REVIEW
Twelve regulations from around the world were analyzed in this report, including regulations from both national and
subnational governments. Some of the most important insights and lessons learned from our analysis include the
1) All regulations provided a period of adjustment after the ban was announced up until the ban was enforced. This
period ranged from six months to one year.
2) Almost all regulations made exemptions for medical use.
3) Stakeholder engagement is important throughout the regulation development process to understand concerns.
4) Regulations that were released in tandem with environmental or anti-plastic campaigns were more successful.
Regulating plastic straws does not come without challenges. Based on our research, some of the greatest challenges
1) Single use alternative straws, like paper or bioplastic, are more expensive than plastic, which may financially
burden small businesses.
2) Reusable straws might be cost effective for restaurants, as they offset the constant purchase of straws, but they
require additional labour and space for cleaning
3) Many countries provided exemptions for hospitals and those with disabilities who need to use plastic straws. It is
important to ensure regulation does burden certain populations.
4) Straws are commonly used in Cambodia, and such a high demand for straws may result in strong policy resistance
from the population.
REGULATION RECOMMENDATIONS FOR CAMBODIA
1) Ban the importation and distribution of plastic straws; however, include an adjustment period of at least six
months from the time of the announcement to the time of enforcement.
2) Exemptions should be given to the following stakeholders:
o hospitals and pharmacies, so they may provide plastic straws to those who need them for medical reasons.
o products where a small plastic straw is attached, such as a juice box.
3) Fines for a violation of the import ban should be set higher than fines for the violation of the distribution ban.
Reason being, regulating and restricting the importation of plastic straws tackles the source of the problem.
Along with rapidly growing level of income, people in Cambodia have come to purchase a coffee, palm juice,
or soda with a plastic straw on a regular basis. People may use several plastic straws in one day. A disposable
plastic drinking straw costs around 20 Cambodian Riel which is about US$.005. They are cheap, convenient,
and have ingrained themselves into our everyday life. Currently, in just the United States alone, it is estimated
that 500 million straws are used every single day. 1
Plastic straws have recently become a target for government regulation to reduce the amount of plastic waste
created in their country or municipality. Plastic straws can take up to 200 years to decompose, and locally they
can cause problems in drainage systems. Though plastic straws represent only 0.025 percent of the total volume
of marine litter,2 some countries have recognized plastic straws as a way to tackle this serious issue. For many
people, plastic straws do not provide a large benefit, but that does not mean regulating them does not have its
challenges. Plastic straws are incredibly cheap, can be found almost everywhere, and have become a part of
REGULATIONS FROM AROUND THE WORLD
For this report, 12 regulations were reviewed at both the national and subnational level. Regulations on plastic
straws were found throughout the world in high, middle, and low-income countries; however, the details of the
regulations vary. Some places opted for complete bans with only very limited exemptions. Others offered much
more complex regulations with detailed explanations of places where plastic straws were banned and when
plastic straws could be offered. As for the impacts of regulations, since many of these regulations have only
been passed since 2017, the effects are not yet evident. In the United States, there have been some cases of
municipal regulations being overturned by state governments, but these laws have more to do with who has the
power to regulate rather than undue burden being put on its citizens by plastic straw regulations.
For most people, plastic straws are not a necessity, but for people with disabilities or those who remain
bedridden due to illness, the flexibility and convenience of plastic straws make drinking much easier. Many
alternatives to plastic straws won’t work for people with a disability, and an outright ban will be harmful.
Regulations from around the world have therefore made exemptions for medical purposes. Appendix A
provides comparisons of some of the potential downsides to alternatives to plastic straws. Regulators should be
aware of these concerns when drafting and implementing policy.
There are also emergent commitments from the industry on plastic straws. Starbucks is one example of such a
company. It pledged to remove plastic straws from all their drinks by 2020.3 There is potential to work with
businesses, as many companies are working on plastic straw reduction tactics themselves.
KEY INSIGHTS AND LESSONS LEARNED
• All regulations banned the importation and distribution of plastic straws.
• All regulations included a period of adjustment after the ban was announced until the ban was enforced.
• Almost all regulations made exemptions for medical use.
• High income countries have more nuanced regulations, allowing for only certain types of businesses to
distribute plastic straws.
• Low and middle-income countries tend to limit exemptions to only medical use.
• The fine for violations varied, being as small as $25 or as large as $800 for multiple violations.
• Stakeholder engagement is important throughout the regulation development process to understand their
• Regulations that were released in tandem with environmental or anti-plastic campaigns were more
CASE STUDY: VANCOUVER, CANADA
In May of 2018, Vancouver, Canada voted to ban the distribution of plastic straws, foam take-out containers
and cups by June 1, 2019, as part of its zero-waste strategy. However, at a meeting in April 2019, the council
approved a recommendation by city staff that the ban be postponed until April 2020. Ian Tostenson, the CEO of
the B.C. Restaurant and Food Association, said the delay is needed to give the industry time to get on board.
“We just need a little more time to figure some stuff out,” he told Stephen Quinn, the host of CBC’s The Early
Edition. “This is really not about an industry that doesn’t want to do it. The industry needs to figure out how to
do it properly and cost-consciously.” 4
As indicated by this case, there is not one universally accepted period for adjustment from announcement to
enforcement. Even one year was not enough for the businesses in Vancouver to adjust. Stakeholder engagement
prior to policy proposal may have prevented the pushback.
Main lessons: Ban requires sufficient time to adjust and stakeholder consultation is recommended.
• The industry needs time to adjust and draft alternatives.
• Inadequate stakeholder engagement resulted in a significant pushback from industry when the regulation
CASE STUDY: CALIFORNIA, USA
In 2018, California became the first US state to ban plastic straws, but the law is only a partial regulation of
plastic straws. Firstly, the law only relates to “full-service restaurants,” where customers are brought to their
seats, get their orders taken, and eat at the premises.5 Fast food establishments and street vendors do not fall into
this regulation, but they are a big contributor to plastic straw waste. Secondly, customers may request a plastic
straw and the restaurant can adhere to their request. The regulation may cut down on some plastic straw waste,
but all restaurants will still be required to keep plastic straws on hand to satisfy their customers. Thirdly,
California did not promote plastic straw alternatives, as some plastic regulations have done. In the end, this
regulation has caused confusion and frustration among the population without reducing plastic waste
Main lessons: limited success due to scope of regulations and lack of alternatives
1) Limited scope of regulation means that only a select few restaurants fall under this regulation.
2) The customers’ ability to request a straw circumvents the desired purpose of the regulation. Moreover,
this clause requires establishments to keep straws on hand, regardless of the regulation.
AVAILABLE PRODUCTS IN CAMBODIA
Some alternative straws are available in Cambodia and used in many businesses. Bamboo straws, metal
(stainless steel) straws, glass straws, and silicon straws are reusable straw options.. A bamboo straw costs
between $0.75 to $1, depending on size and quantity ordered. Many companies and local NGOs, such as Suck
On That, sell bamboo straws. They are easily found to purchase in
local restaurants or cafes. Metal straws, which are made of stainless Price Reusable
steel, are another option. Metal straws are durable, and cost on (per 1
average $1 per straw. Glass straws are also available and cost $1.25 straw)
per straw. Silicon straw costs $0.9-1.15 for one. Bamboo, metal,
silicon, and glass straws are all reusable and compact enough for Plastic $.005 No
personal travel. Eat in restaurants may be able to reduce costs by Straws
switching over to a reusable straw, but it is important to note that Paper $.02 No
reusable straws increase labour costs for businesses, since they need Straws
to be cleaned after each use.
PLA Straws $.02 No
There are also single-use alternatives to plastic straws. Paper straws, Bamboo $0.75~1 Yes
which are not recyclable but do decompose, cost $0.02 per straw. $1 Yes
These straws are convenient like plastic straws, but they start to lose Metal
Straws $1.25 Yes
their structure after a few hours of use. They also do not bend
making them an inadequate alternative for people with disabilities. Glass $0.9~1.15 Yes
Finally, PLA straws, which are made from corn starch, also cost
around $0.02 per straw. This alternative most resembles the texture Silicon
and flexibility of plastic straws. However, PLA straws only compost
at an industrial compost facility and will not provide a huge benefit Grass
if they enter landfills, as plastic straws currently do.
Straws $.04 - No
Bamboo Straws Silicon Straws Stainless Steel Straws Paper Straws
CHALLENGES FOR CAMBODIA
Since plastic straws are used so often and in so many businesses, regulating their use will not be an easy task.
Plastic remains the cheapest option by far for single use straws. Small businesses, like coffee shops or
sugarcane juice vendors, may find the higher price of a straw alternative a large burden. Their customers may
not accept a higher price so these vendors will be forced to bear the full weight of these added costs. When the
final price of the item is between $0.50 - $1.00, an increase in costs of around $.02 per product sold can hurt a
business. These single use alternatives will still need to be managed at their end of life. Straws are not collected
by informal waste collectors for recycling, meaning that these straws will either need to be composted or sent to
Reusable straws may be a good option for businesses, where most of their customers eat in. Even if they can
afford the extra cost of these straws, they will require additional time, labour, and space to clean them. Many
restaurant workers already work in tight quarters under high stress. Cleaning one straw per customer may
potentially burden restaurant workers.
All regulations reviewed provide some sort of exemption for hospitals or those with disabilities. Regulation in
Cambodia should consider the same exemptions. If Cambodia does offer this exemption it will be important to
not overburden people with disabilities in finding plastic straws. Special attention needs to be paid to how these
communities will be able to access straws. One possibility is only allowing plastic straws to be sold in
pharmacies and treating them as a medical tool.
Finally, since plastic straws are so common in Cambodia, there might be a push back from the population, as
people in all countries generally don’t like to be inconvenienced. Pairing plastic regulations with messaging on
environmental sustainability will help get the population on board.
SUGGESTIONS FOR REGULATIONS
To reduce plastic straw waste, the following measures are recommended:
• Ban the importation and distribution of plastic straws.
• The ban should be announced at least six months prior to the enforcement of policy. This period will
allow businesses to decide what type of alternatives to use. Suppliers will also have enough time to
meet an increased demand.
• Exemptions should only be given to hospitals and pharmacies. Although, only the distribution should be
banned and not the use or sale within pharmacies. It is recommended that pharmacies are permitted to
sell small quantities of plastic straws to prevent large-scale business distribution.
• Exemptions should also be given to products where a small plastic straw is attached, such as a juice
box. This exemption considers products packaged outside of Cambodia.
• Fines should vary depending on the violation. Companies who do not comply with the import ban
should be fined anywhere from $100-$1,000. For businesses who do not comply with distribution bans,
fines should range from $25-$100.
Appendix A: Review of Plastic Straw Regulations
Country or Ban/Regulation Fine Exemptions
Municipality On 1 July, 2018 a ban on single- To individuals caught
Vanuatu use plastic straws started. manufacturing single use plastic
Drinking straws made of plastic straws: 50,000 vatu ($431) (first
that are designed for one-time offence), 80,000 vatu ($690)
use are banned.6 (subsequent offence)
manufacturing single use plastic
straws: 100,000 ($862) (first
offence), 200,000 ($1724)
Individuals caught selling, giving
or otherwise providing plastic
straws: 20,000 vatu ($172) (first
offence), 50,000 ($431) vatu
Corporations caught selling,
giving or otherwise providing
single-use plastic straws: 50,000
vatu ($431) (first offence),
100,000 ($862) vatu
Seychelles Ministry of Environment, Plastic straws
Costa Rica Energy and Climate Change will attached to juice
ban the importation of single- and milk packets to
use plastic straws into the be exempt from
country as of February 1. A the ban.
total ban will be implemented
on June 1, 2019. The ban will
include straws used in cocktails
and other drinks but will
exempt plastic straws attached
to juice packets.7
On 5 June 2017, World
Environment Day, the
government announced a
National Strategy to phase out
all forms of single-use plastics
by 2021 and replace them with
alternatives that biodegrade
within six months. The ban
aims at eliminating not only
plastic bags and bottles, but
also other items such as plastic
Belize Government of Belize on 20 Regarding drinking
Taiwan March 2018 announced the straws, the ban will
intention to phase out single- not apply to those
Jamaica use plastics as of 22 April 2019. that are used in
Single-use disposable drinking medical facilities,
straws are targeted as well.9 like hospitals or
As of 2019, food and beverage care homes for
stores such as fast food chains patients.
must stop providing plastic
straws for in-store use. From
2020, free plastic straws will be
banned from all food and
beverage outlets. From 2025,
fees will be imposed for
takeaway plastic straws.10
As of January 1, 2019, the
Government will impose a ban
on single use plastic bags,
straws and polystyrene. The
ban covers the importation,
manufacture and distribution
of the materials. 11
United Full-service restaurants can Violators can face a $25 fine per The California law
States hand out paper or metal straws day after two warnings. doesn’t apply to
(California) unprompted by customers. fast food
Assembly Bill 1994 was signed restaurants or
in efforts to reduce plastic convenience
pollution and will go into effect stores.
on January 1, 2019.
United “Businesses and organizations If you are found to still be using Any food or
States selling or serving food or plastic straws or stirrers after beverage packaged
(Washington beverages in the District are no July 1, 2019, DOEE will begin outside of the
D.C.) longer allowed to provide issuing official violations and District is exempt
single-use plastic straws or fines. Typically, DOEE issues a from the
stirrers to consumers.” Notice of Violation for the first requirements of
October 29, 2018: The Mayor’s violation. Any additional the law, so juice
List of Recyclables and violations found after that first boxes and similar
Compostables was updated to official warning will incur fines items with plastic
exclude plastic straws and ranging between $100-$800. straws attached
stirrers from the list of DOEE has the authority to issue can still be served.
allowable items. fines for each plastic straw DOEE recognizes
January 1, 2019: Businesses observed by inspectors to be that some
must no longer use plastic distributed, potentially yielding customers with
straws or stirrers to serve fines much higher than $100- disabilities require
customers. DOEE will be $800. plastic straws to
inspecting businesses for consume food or
compliance and issuing beverages and
unofficial warnings. encourages
July 1, 2019: DOEE will begin regulated entities
issuing official warnings and to keep a limited
fines to businesses and stock of plastic
organizations still providing straws available
plastic straws and stirrers12. upon request to
meet these needs
United Food service businesses in Violators will be subject to a and will not
States Seattle are required to use $250 fine.14 enforce against
(Seattle, compostable straws and plastic straws
Washington) compostable utensils effective offered to
July 1, 2018. Using disposable consumers with
plastic straws and plastic disabilities who
utensils is prohibited.13 require these
United The government announced Disposable flexible
Kingdom the new restrictions talks of “a plastic drinking
ban on supply of plastic straws when
straws” but in reality, the aim needed by
is instead to restrict their customers due to
availability. From April 2020, medical or physical
bars and restaurants will not conditions and for
be allowed to display plastic whom flexible
Plastic straws will
on sale by
stores and online.
straws or automatically hand
them out but they will be able
to provide them if people ask.15
Dominica “Therefore, Madam Speaker,
consistent with the
Government’s vision to create
the world’s first climate
resilient nation, our
designation as “The Nature
Isle” and our commitment to
protect Mother Earth, effective
1st January 2019, a number of
items considered to be inimical
to the environment will be
banned. These will include the
following: - plastic straws,
1 Eco Cycle (2019). Be Straw Free Campaign: Frequently Asked Questions. Retrieved from
2 UN Environment (2018, August 29). Latin America wakes up to the problem of plastic straws. Retrieved from:
3 BBC (2018, July 9). Starbucks to ban plastics straws in all stores by 2020. Retrieved from: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-
4 Clare H. (2019, April 29). Vancouver to postpone ban on straws, Styrofoam and other single-use items. Retrieved from:
5 Brueck H. (2018). California just became the first US state to ban plastic straws in restaurants — unless customers ask.
Retrieved from Business Insider: https://www.businessinsider.com/california-straw-ban-restaurants-what-you-need-to-know-2018-
6 Government of Vanuatu (2018). Plastic Ban. Retrieved from: https://environment.gov.vu/index.php/environmental-
7 Salifa, K. (2019, January 3). Seychelles to ban importation of plastic straws in February; complete ban to follow. Retrieved from
Seychelles New Agency:
8 World Economic Forum (2017). Costa Rica wants to be the first country to ban all single-use plastics. Retrieved from
9 Government of Belize (2018). Phasing Out of Single-use Plastic Bags and Styrofoam and Plastic food Utensils. Retrieved from:
10 Environmental Protection Administration of Taiwan (2018). Restrictions on Plastic Straws Preannounced
11 Smith, A. (2018, September 18). Gov’t Bans Single-Use Plastic Bags, Plastic Straws and Polystyrene. Retrieved from Jamaica
Information Service: https://jis.gov.jm/govt-bans-single-use-plastic-bags-plastic-straws-and-polystyrene/
12 Government of the District of Columbia (2018). Straw and Stirrers New Requirements. Retrieved from:
13 Government of the city of Seattle (2018). Straw & Utensil Requirement. Retrieved from:
14 CNN (2018). Seattle becomes the latest city to ban plastic straws and utensils. Retrieved from:
15 Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (2018). Retrieved from the publication:
16 Government of Dominica (2018). The National Budget Of The Commonwealth of Dominica Fiscal Year 2018 – 2019