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HOME  > Past issues  > 2018 November 21 - 27  > Japan should join global efforts to tackle ocean plastic pollution
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2018 November 21 - 27 [SOCIAL ISSUES]

Japan should join global efforts to tackle ocean plastic pollution

November 27, 2018

Akahata editorial (excerpts)

To the disappointment of the international community, Japan, along with the U.S., at the Group of Seven summit meeting held in Canada in June refused to sign the Ocean Plastic Charter which calls on nations to tighten regulations. As such, the pro-business Abe government is reluctant to take action to address the global problem. As long as the Abe administration continues to maintain its current stance, it cannot avoid criticism from both home and abroad.

It is estimated that over eight million tons of plastic waste are annually flowing into the oceans worldwide. Experts warn that if the situation remains unchanged, the weight of this waste will surpass the weight of all fish in the sea by 2050. Plastics in the sea break down into small pieces and are eaten by fish, birds, and other animals, and eventually by humans. These “microplastics”, or plastic particles smaller than five millimeters, are considered by experts to pose a health hazard.

Many countries are working hard to tackle the plastic pollution problem, but Japan lags behind in this effort. For example, Japan’s policy for plastic waste recycling is approaching a stalemate. Japan has long exported a large amount of wastes to China and Southeast Asian countries instead of recycling them at home. However, in recent years, these countries began to tighten regulations on plastic waste and some have prohibited this kind of transactions. With the increased difficulties in exporting trash, plastic waste is gradually piling up in intermediate processing plants in Japan. The Abe government should review its recycling policy without delay.

More and more countries have banned the production, sales, and distribution of single-use plastic goods. According to the UN Environment Programme, over 60 countries and regions have prohibited the production of plastic bags and polystyrene dishes or impose extra fees on the use of these goods. The production, use, and sales of plastic bags have been banned or restricted in a growing number of countries.

On the other hand, unlike many other countries, Japan is not willing to prohibit the production of single-use plastic products, just encouraging manufacturers to turn to reusable goods. The government should take measures to curb the production of plastic products with a numerical reduction target and a declared deadline year.

Past related articles:
> Diet enacts bill to counter plastic pollution in sea [June 16, 2018]
> End plastic pollution for sake of future generations [June 10, 2018]
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