The Japanese government has decided to devlop a strategy to reduce the massive volume of plastic waste generated daily.
In line with global moves to not just promote recycling of plastic goods but to reduce their overall use, the government aims to reduce the use of plastic shopping bags and other disposable plastic products.
As early as this summer, the government will form a council made up of representatives from relevant ministries and agencies — including the Environment Ministry and the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry — and the industrial sector as well as other experts to create a plan by the end of the year.
They will likely seek to reduce use of plastic bags and food trays; increase collection and reuse of plastic resources; and spread the use of bioplastics derived from plant materials instead of petroleum.
Plastics have the potential to contribute to global warming as they emit carbon dioxide when burned.
Concern has also recently been raised over the hazardous impact on ecosystems of microplastics — plastics that break down into pieces of 5 millimeters or less in diameter while floating in the ocean, due to ultraviolet rays and the force of waves.
According to the Plastic Waste Management Institute, Japan’s total plastic waste amounted to 8.99 million tons in 2016, and about 60 percent of this was incinerated. Most of the heat from waste incineration is used for power generation and other purposes.
An Environment Ministry official said: “It is vital to get the understanding and cooperation of businesses and citizens. We first want to hear a wide range of views at the council.”
Prof. Hideshige Takada of the Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology, an expert on environmental chemistry, is well-versed in the plastic waste issues. He said measures against plastic waste have “focused on recycling, and efforts for reduction have been insufficient.”