Japan adopts measures to reduce plastic waste before G20

Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Tokyo,  Japan on Friday adopted a series of measures to reduce the production of plastic waste ahead of the G20 summit in Osaka city at the end of June, where the issue is one of the main items on the agenda.

The new policies will be aimed at reducing the dumping of plastics into the ocean, encouraging recycling of plastic bottles and combating pollution of oceans by microplastics, tiny bits of plastic trash that are a threat to marine birds and fish and which, according to experts, can pose a risk to human health.

“Ocean plastic waste is one of the issues topping the G20 summit agenda. As the chair of the meeting, we will exercise leadership to solve the matter,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said at a meeting where the policy package was finalized, Japanese news agency Kyodo reported.

The plan includes providing support to the development of biodegradable materials and the promotion of recycling. It requires retailers to charge customers for plastic bags while calling for an increased use of bioplastics made of renewable resources such as plants.

The measures also ask manufacturers to stop the use of microbeads in facewash and toothpaste and urge municipalities located near rivers to prevent plastic waste from finding its way into the sea, according to Efe news.

Japan, the world’s second largest generator of plastic waste per capita after the US, has proposed cutting plastic trash by 25 per cent by 2030 and completely recycling and reusing such waste, including components used in household electric appliances and automobiles, by 2035.

Many countries are having trouble managing the growing amount of plastic waste, which disintegrates into small pieces on exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun and out of which over 8 million tonnes end up in the oceans, according to the UN.

Friends of the Earth, an international network of environmental organizations in 74 countries, estimates that there is currently around 150 tonnes of plastic waste in the oceans around the world and at the present rate, by 2050, there will be more plastic than fish in the sea.

These wastes, which tend to absorb harmful chemicals, are difficult to remove once they’re in water and end up being eaten by fish, birds and other animals, thereby moving up the food chain.