TOKYO >> The Japanese government plans to provide assistance for the collection and disposal of plastic waste from the ocean picked up by fishing vessels, subsidizing most of the cost borne by municipalities.
Amid growing international concern over how to deal with ocean pollution, the government hopes to work with fishermen to accelerate a reduction of plastic waste in the ocean.
According to the Fisheries Agency, fishermen drag up large amounts of plastic bottles, bags and other kinds of trash along with the fish they catch when using trawl nets and other methods. Since they currently incur the cost of disposing the trash, many fishermen throw it back into the water.
The agency and the Environment Ministry plans to extend subsidies, originally designated specifically for trash that washes ashore, to waste collected by fishing vessels. The Japan Fisheries Cooperatives and other groups have expressed a willingness to cooperate.
Funding for the subsidies total about 3.5 billion yen (about $27.7 million). Municipalities that dispose of the garbage are expected to shoulder about 6% of the cost.
The Kagawa prefectural government and all 17 municipalities in the prefecture cover the cost of collecting and disposing of waste picked up by fishermen. About 20 tons of trash is handled annually, 80% of which is reportedly plastic products such as bottles and shopping bags.
Currently, about 30,000 tons of ocean waste is processed annually in Japan. That figure reflects solely trash that washes ashore. One-third is estimated to be plastic waste.
Meanwhile, there’s been little progress in dealing with other forms of ocean waste, such as garbage that sinks to the sea floor. The government hopes that if steady progress is made with waste dragged up in trawl nets, it will lead to reducing deep-sea garbage.