TONTOTON Recognized by UNESCO Green Citizens for Plastic Pollution Initiative


Pioneering Social Innovation, TONTOTON’s Unique Approach Mobilizes Coastal Communities  Against Plastic Pollution Becomes a UNESCO Green Citizens Project.

  • TONTOTON becomes the first Cambodian project to join the UNESCO Green Citizens Project.
  • Innovative waste collection and upcycling processes empower coastal communities, addressing all types of plastic pollution.
  • The initiative’s funding model of environmental stewardship and community engagement stands as a powerful example for global sustainability efforts.

SIHANOUKVILLE, Cambodia – February 28, 2024 – TONTOTON, an innovative social enterprise, has been identified as a UNESCO Green Citizens Project. This invitation to join the movement showcase TONTOTON’s unique system that tackles plastic waste through community-led collection and progressive upcycling, supporting UNESCO’s mission to foster innovative, positive and concrete impact solutions for community empowerment and environmental preservation.

Southeast Asia, facing rapid industrialization and a surge in consumer waste with millions of tons of untreated waste finding their way into the ocean annually. High plastic leakage, particularly in disadvantaged coastal villages, forces communities to live in severe pollution, often without the means to effect change. TONTOTON’s mission is to collaborate with these communities, offering a system that enables a clean and safe environment.

Innovative Approach to Sustainability

TONTOTON offers an end-to-end solution, from a community collection network to the treatment of all types of plastic. At the company’s Material Recovery Facility (MRF) in Sihanoukville, they sort and process collected materials and host awareness tours to educate on responsible plastic use and disposal.

TONTOTON’s guiding principle of “Leaving nothing and no one behind,” ensuring no community or plastic waste is left behind. TONTOTON’s approach includes innovative recycling and upcycling processes, turning environmental challenges into opportunities for social and economic development. The initiative collected over 3,000 tons of plastic diverted from the environment has integrated over 400 households with plastic segregation system to prevent plastic leakage, providing additional monthly income of 10-12 USD and involving hundreds of informal waste pickers in its programs. They’ve adopted a dual approach, transforming hard-to-recycle plastics into construction materials building new classrooms and school furniture and converting other non-recyclables into energy in partnership with cement factories.

A key component of their financial sustainability is the Plastic Credits system, which acts as a plastic recovery funding mechanism certified by the Ocean Bound Plastic Certification. This system allows the privet sector to bridge the funding gap for collecting and treating low-value plastic, enabling TONTOTON to maintain its vital operations and expand its impact.

Barak Ekshtein, Founder of TONTOTON, remarks, “Our recognition by UNESCO Green Citizens is not just an honor but a clarion call for sustainable action. It’s a validation of our belief that community-centric approaches can significantly address complex environmental issues like plastic pollution.”

Armelle Arrou, Head of Section Marketing, Outreach, and Partnerships, of the UNESCO Green Citizens initiative: “TONTOTON illustrates the positive impact that community-led initiatives can have on environmental sustainability, inspiring similar actions across the globe.”


TONTOTON, a pioneer in social and environmental innovation in Cambodia, confronts plastic pollution with a unique model of waste collection, recycling, and upcycling, emphasizing no waste or person left behind.

About UNESCO Green Citizens

UNESCO Green Citizens promotes projects that make a meaningful environmental difference, marrying scientific expertise with grassroots innovation to combat climate change and enhance global sustainability.


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