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Student Research Competition 2015

Research Proposal

Assessment on Students’ Behaviors and Perceptions on

Plastic Bottle Waste Management

Proposed by: Ms. Koum Raksmeymony, Student of RUPP

Mr. Pa Lonrassmey, Student of ZU
Mr. Kann Bonpagna, Student of ITC

Date of Submission: September 14, 2015

Contact Number: 012 225 260
Code Number:
Research Proposal

Title of Research: Assessment on Students’ Behaviors and Perceptions on Plastic

Bottle Waste Management

In this swift moving world, human’s lifestyle has changed a lot. Modern
technology has made it more convenient for people’s daily activities, such as using
plastic materials in packaging foods and beverage instead of using lotus, banana or
palm leaves during the past decades. While looking at these bright developments, the
darker side shall not be missed; the more foods and drinks are conveniently
distributed, the more wastes are generated. Besides, it is difficult to control the wastes
when people prioritize their convenience over environmental concerns.
In Cambodia, the population growth and gross domestic product (GDP) are
rising rapidly due to economic development and urbanization. The population is
estimated to reach 15.67 million in 2015 (Cambodia Population, 2014.), while the
GDP was worth 16.71 billion US dollar in 2014 (Cambodia GDP, 2014), the highest
value of all time. With the growing of population, competitions and busy daily life of
individuals, multi-cultural adaptation has emerged in the urban living environment.
More and more people prefer modern and convenient lifestyle without concerning a
lot about how some products could cause health risks and have future consequences
on their health and environment as a whole. For instance, these days, we observe that
workers, travelers, students, etc. who have hectic lifestyle carry and use portable
foods and drinks, particularly drinking water bottles, since they do not cost much,
portable, and easily thrown away, in their opinions. However, after being used or
consumed, where do those plastic bottles go? Is plastic bottle waste being treated
Waste, particularly, plastic bottle waste management should not be solely the
responsibility of any particular entity, but each individual in the society. They should
think wisely of what they are going to buy or use and be aware of the waste they later
on produce. For this reason, university students are the main targets of this research,
because they are adults who bare more responsibility and stand as the good role
models for younger generation.

Literature Review
Plastic bottle was first invented as the Low Density Polyethylene (LDPE)
which was used to replace glass bottles for shampoos and liquid soaps (Katz et al.,
2014). In the later year, there was a significant development in the production of
plastic bottle. One of the common plastic bottle products is PET (Polyethylene
Terephthalate) bottle which is used to contain beverage and water. In some cases, it is
one of the dangerous materials that lead to many unexpected effects. A landmark
report on Bisphenol-A (BPA), a chemical in raw material of plastic bottles, published
in 2008 by the U.S. National Toxicology Program concluded that there were concerns
over BPA’s effects on the brain system, behavior and prostate gland development in
fetuses (Boggan, 2012).

Plastic water bottle waste is widely used by university students in Cambodia
which had the population of around 207,000 in 2013 (MoEYS: Higher Education,
2013). According to the previous research, the amount of plastic bottle usage at
universities in Phnom Penh was 1.28% in 2014 which was higher than many other
places (Yim, Fujiwara, & Sour, 2014).

Due to hazardous impacts of plastic bottles, several researches have been

conducted to promote the reusing, reducing and recycling activities in the city. For
example, in other country’s perspective, Canada, for example, plastic water bottles are
one of the most recycled products and are used to make playground equipment,
automobile parts, clothing and other plastic containers (Ellsbury, 2015). Another
research, which conducted by Nabeel Bedawi Ismail Fadlalla from the Sudan
Academy of Science, has shown that there are two ways of recycling PET bottles.
First, the chemical recycling back to the initial raw materials purified terephthalic acid
(PTA) or dimethyl terephthalate (DMT) and ethylene glycol (EG) where the polymer
structure is destroyed completely, or in process intermediates like Bis-Beta-
Ghydroxyterephthalate. Second, the mechanical recycling where the original polymer
properties are being maintained or reconstituted in order to create a high quality
polyster product (Fadlalla, 2010).

In Cambodia, reducing and reusing activities have been promoted, but

recycling is still low due to the lack of modern machine and technical system. For
example, the early work by COMPED, the used plastic bags can be put into the
wasted bottles, and they can be used to construct bottle-brick buildings which were
also successfully practiced in some provinces (Bottle-brick house project, 2015).

As can be seen in the country, there are still problems that most people do not
realize about the effects of plastic bottles; consequently, this research is conducted in
order to fulfill this concern by studying about the perceptions and behaviors of people,
particularly university students on plastic bottle waste management. In this paper, we
aim to analyze how university students treat the used plastic bottles and how they can
contribute to make the city clean and green.

Problem Statement
Plastic bottles are made of polyethylene terephthalate (PET), a type of clear,
hard polycarbonate plastic. Each bottle can take up to 700 years or longer to be
decomposed which is very harmful to environment and causes a growing wasteland
(Ellsbury, 2012).
Globally, 67 million plastic water bottles are thrown away every day, in which
only about 10% of those bottles are recycled, while the rest ends up in dumpsites and
oceans putting ecosystem in danger (Mercola, 2011). In Phnom Penh, plastic waste
contributes about 20% of the total municipal solid wastes, in which an approximate of
1.4% belongs to plastic bottles (Appendix 1). Along with other waste categories,
universities produce plastic bottle waste roughly 1.28% (Yim, Fujiwara, & Sour,
2014). Even though this is a small proportion, plastic bottle waste should not be
overlooked. It is necessary to prevent it from escalating to a serious problem that will
be difficult and costly to handle.

However, reliable database related to Cambodian people’s consumption and
littering behaviors of plastic bottles and plastic bottle waste management is scarce.
There are some recent studies about solid waste, in which plastic wastes are included,
but they only focused on the data of solid waste produced by various sources and
sorting the data into distinguished solid waste categories. They did not study about
people’s perceptions and behaviors, and how much people, especially university
students are aware of plastic bottle waste management. Therefore, the study of
perceptions and behaviors of university students on plastic bottle waste management
is needed to understand more about how they manage the plastic bottles they once use
and at what degree that they can contribute to city’s cleanliness and greenness.

Objective of the Research and Research Questions

The objective is to study about the perceptions and behaviors of university
students towards plastic bottle waste management in order to identify and recommend
effective strategies and practices on managing plastic bottle waste within the target
community and to spread good practices into the whole society.
More specifically, this research aims to analyze students’ consumption and
littering behaviors of plastic bottles. The result drawn from the research study would
provide more understanding about the use of plastic bottles by the selected target
group and how the users treat plastic bottle waste.
The specific research questions are:
1) What are the consumption (of bottled water) patterns among the target group?
2) How university students perceive the use and treat plastic water bottles?
3) And what are their behavioral attitudes towards and understanding about the
plastic bottle waste management?

Significance of Research
This research will be a significant endeavor in raising awareness of
Cambodian citizen, especially university students on plastic bottle waste management.
It will be a beneficial work for any individual, and organizations, including public and
private sectors in relating fields to build more understanding about the perceptions
and behaviors of university students, who are perceived to use plastic bottles at a large
quantity, towards the management of plastic bottle waste. The understanding of this
subject matter is a very important starting point for creating further effective
regulations or legal framework, strategies and actions concerning plastic bottle waste

Additionally, this research will analyze the perceived potential impacts of

plastic bottle waste produced by students. Currently, this kind of waste is not a
prioritized focus, since its negative impacts does not catch the majority’s attention.
The results of this research will also provide some insights on the issue (Plastic Bottle
Waste Management) and recommend further studies or actions or sound strategies
and practices on how people can manage the plastic bottles usage in environmentally
friendly ways.

One of the most important outcomes of this research is to raise the awareness
on how plastic water bottles are to be wisely used and treated. This is why we believe

that making university students as the main focus on this research would be more
beneficial and effective as they are adults, in which their responsibility in the society
is more.

Research Methodology

A. The Target Group and Sample Size

The target group for our survey is university students in Phnom Penh only. We
decided to choose these students as the target group because of a number of reasons.
First of all, we observe that there are a notable percentage of Phnom Penh populations
are attending universities. We also realize that students in this category seemed to use
plastic bottles in a remarkable amount, which got us the idea of this research in the
first place. Moreover, we believe that if we want to introduce or raise awareness on
this matter, university students should be the focus group, because they are the ones
likely to make impact on society currently. The survey will be conducted based on
randomization method, in which both papers and link to our online survey will be
distributed to different universities to get survey responses. The sample size for the
survey is 4101 respondents which it is believed to accurately represent the total
population of the research. The sample size calculation is based on the web-based
formula ( by using confidence level 95%,
confidence interval 5% with the total estimated population of 100,000. The minimum
calculated sample size is 383. In the assumption that only 95% of respondents would
give completely answers, we add 27 samples into the minimum size, so that the total
sample size is 410.

B. The Data Collection Methods

The research paper will take on two methods to collect data for the study. The
first one is the secondary data. Previous studies and papers done in related to this
field, including both local and foreign countries’ studies will provide us a broad
insight on the issue. Thus, that not only we can know how much they have done, but
also a certain level of how much they have achieved, and then we draw from past
lessons-learned and experiences to looking further in depth and improvement in this

The second type is the primary data that we collect through paper- and online-
based surveys. Secondary data is obviously not sufficient for our study, due to the
lack of resources and outdated data and as well as there is a huge gap in research in
Cambodia regarding this issue of plastic bottle waste. That is why surveys will be
used by having respondents answer our simple questionnaire which includes MCQs,
Yes-No questions and open-ended questions, in order to get both quantitative and
qualitative information for better analysis. The questionnaire is designed, so that it
will collect the required information and data to reflect to the research questions, and
it will be simple, easy to understand and little time-consuming in answering by
respondents as well. The questionnaire will be reviewed by some reviewers, including
professors, researchers, and tested, to make sure it is appropriate and reasonable for
this type of survey.

The sample size will be revisited and adjusted according to proper formula used to calculate sample
size in the statistical literature.

C. Data Analysis
After the collection of both secondary and primary data, we will do data
cleaning and coding and analysis. It is clear that the data from secondary sources will
be filtered to keep only the ones that are related to our research. With primary data,
the collected responses to our survey will be the crucial part of our research. These
data will be entered in a designed data analysis in Excel Spreadsheet, in order to
solidify and avoid any rush assumption as reaction to the raw data collected. In
analyzing, the data will be converted into different forms of diagrams or charts, so
that they are easily visualized and analyzed. The first draft of the results will be
shared with respective reviewers, for comments and feedbacks. Then, they will be
rectified, improved and finalized for making a conclusion and further

D. The Activity and Budget Plan

As per Appendix 2, it will take 3 months to complete the research study from
the planning or design until the presentation of the results to audience.

The estimated budget is $160 (one hundred and sixty USD), excluding the
costs of researchers’ time (please refer to Appendix 3).

E. Research limitations
There are limitations and challenges that could be faced in this study. First of
all, the available resources for secondary data are limited. It is challenging to find
sources about plastic bottle waste management, and not to even mention about
Cambodia. In order to deal with that, we try to find as much information we could
obtain, regardless of the cases of different countries. We acknowledge that all of the
findings could give us ideas of how plastic wastes are managed in other countries.

The primary data collection, on the other hand, has its own challenges. Firstly,
the target group itself, under which due to our available resources (people, money and
time limitation), we could not cover other university students, who are studying at all
academic institutions in the provinces. Secondly, due to time constraint and available
resource limitation, the sample size is calculated by web-based formula. However, in
the full research paper, literature related to statistics will be reviewed to get a better
formula to calculate the sample size. Thirdly, due to busy-ness of university students
during the survey period, we expect that we would get only 380 responses. However,
with this number of responses, the confidential level would be about 90%. Last but
not least, the other challenge is that the respondents being interviewed is to be
balanced, e.g. male and female, 1st, 2nd, 3rd or 4th university year of respondents, to
ensure in getting diversified opinions within the target group.


Boggan, S. (2012, June 11). Poisoned by plastic: Chemicals in water bottles and food
packaging have been linked to infertility and birth defects. Scaremongering, or
the truth? Retrieved September 8, 2015, from Dailymail:
Bottled Wate-Free Northwestern University. (2015, April 1). Evanston, Illinois,
United States.
Cambodia GDP. (2014). Retrieved September 2, 2015, from Trading Economics:
Cambodia Population. (n.d.). Retrieved September 2, 2015, from World Population
Diffloth, N. (2011, November). Water Bottles in Cambodia. Retrieved September 3,
2015, from Diffloth:
Ellsbury, H. (2012, August 23). Plastic Water Bottles Impose Health and
Environmental Risks. Retrieved August 20, 2015, from Ban the Bottle:
Environmental Guidelines on Solid Waste Management in the Kingdom of Cambodia.
(2016). Phnom Penh: Ministry of Environment of Cambodia and COMPED-
Fadlalla, N. B. I. (2010). Management of PET Plastic Bottles Waste Through
Recycling In Khartoum State (Master’s thesis, Sudan Academy of Science,
Sudan). Retrieved from
Hul, S., Kuok, F., Soy, T., & Khoeurn, K. (2015). Solid waste generation and life-
span with credible growth forecast waste generation, volume and composition.
Phnom Penh: The Asia Foundation.
Marks, S., & Reuy, R. (2009, April 15). Scavengers Seek Framework for Waste
Recycling. Retrieved September 2, 2015, from The Cambodia Daily:
Mercola, J. (2011, January 11). Bottled Water Poisons Your Body One Swallow at a
time. Retrieved August 20, 2015, from Mercola:
MoEYS: Higher Education . (2013). Retrieved September 10, 2015, from Ministry of
Education, Youth and Sport:

Plastic Water Bottles: Is "BPA-free" the same as Safe? (2009, February). Retrieved
August 19, 2015, from Natural Resources Defense Council:

Sylvia Katz, C. W. (2014). A History of Plastics. Retrieved September 10, 2015, from
British Plastics Federation:

Waste Management and Bottle-brick House Project. (n.d.). Retrieved September 5,

2015, from COMPED:

Yim, M., Fujiwara, T., & Sour, S. (2014). Current status of commercial solid waste
generation, composition and management in Phnom Penh city, Cambodia.
Premier Publishers, 34-35.
Yim, M., Fujiwara, T., & Sour, S. (2015). Generation and Characteristics of
commercial solid waste in Phnom Penh City, CAMBODIA. Paper presented at
The 25th Annual Conference of Japan Society of Material Cycles and Waste
Management (p. 1). Hiroshima: Japan Society of Material Cycles and Waste

Appendix 1 – Municipal solid waste composition in Municipal of Phnom Penh

Municipal solid waste composition in MPP
0.00% 0.50%
0.50% 0.30% 4.10%

0.50% 1.10%


4.60% 8.00%

Food/Organic Waste White bag plastics

Color bag plastics Other plastic bag-fragile bag
Plastic bottles (PET) Plastic cub and others
Other plastics Paper sheet and/or newspapaer
Cardboard Tissue paper
Grass and wood Broken glass
Glass bottle Aluminum can
Iron can Other iron
Copper Rubber and leather
Textile Ceramic and stone
Other burnable Other un-burnable

Source: Hul, S., Kuok, F., Soy, T., & Khoeurn, K. (2015). Solid waste generation and
life-span with credible growth forecast waste generation, volume and composition.
Phnom Penh: The Asia Foundation.

Appendix 2 – Activity Plan

Oct-15 Nov-15 Dec-15 Jan-

Description of Activities 16
W2 W3 W4 W1 W2 W3 W4 W1 W2 W3 W4 W1

Questionnaire design and testing

a) Reviewing previous studies and literature
b) Designing questionnaires, sharing with
reviewers for feedbacks and finalize the 1st Draft
c) Conduct a testing of the 1st Draft of
questionnaires with 50 respondents
d) Revise and improve the questionnaires based
on the results of testing
e) Finalize the questionnaires
Conduct Survey
Send questionnaires to selected respondents
Data Cleaning and Analysis
a) Reviewing the respondents' answers in the
questionnaires and codifying
b) Entering data/ information in Excel spreadsheet
c) Data analysis using Excel
d) Share the results of analysis with reviewers/
professors for feedbacks
e) Finalize the data analysis and survey results
Writing the Full Research Paper
a) Draft the Full Research Paper
b) Reviews and Feedbacks
c) Finalize the Full Research Paper

Appendix 3 – Budget Plan

No. Item Cost

Questionnaires design and survey data testing and
1 $30
analysis (meetings with reviewers)
2 Transport, fuel (estimated) $60
Survey Expense (materials, interviewers, phone cards,
3 $70
gifts to respondents)
Budget required: $160