Tonle Sap Lake (TSL) in Cambodia and its many tributaries have a rich biodiversity. Many residents of the floating villages on TSL dispose of household wastes directly into the lake, which has resulted in large accumulations of plastic waste that seriously affect the quality of the watershed and its surrounding soils. It is therefore necessary to manage plastic waste more effectively, especially in rural regions in which there are no basic public waste collection services. The objective of the study was to capture the villagers’ perceptions of plastic waste. A perception survey was conducted using in-depth interview based on a standard questionnaire in the target area. The questions were designed to maximise the response rate and participant concentration. The collected data were analysed using statistical methods. The study captured the villagers’ perceptions of plastic waste, i.e. the reasons for using specific plastic items for consumption, avoidance of certain plastic items, plastic waste disposal methods and the willingness to participate in plastic waste separation and collection systems. Plastic bags accounted for most (27 %) of the plastic waste discharged into the lake or disposed of on land. Most respondents understood pollution problems were caused by discarding plastic waste directly into the lake. Of the 25 participants, 22 chose incentives (cash) as the most important factor that would motivate them to separate and collect plastic waste. Economic incentives have proven to be the most important factor for encouraging villagers on TLS to undertake waste separation and collection. The results of this study will assist in promoting plastic waste separation and collection in the floating villages of Cambodia.