It’s official: In March, the United Nations Environmental Assembly endorsed a global pact on the life cycle of plastic. It has been declared a seismic shift in the battle against marine pollution, but what will happen to the oceans before those potential positive effects come?

Japan’s coasts and seas are awash with plastic waste. More PET bottles and plastic cups and take-out containers were found on the country’s beaches than any other litter except cigarette butts, according to a 2020 study by Statista. And that’s not set to change soon: Japan continues to produce 9.4 million tons of plastic waste annually according to the Environmental Investigation Agency, a London-based nongovernmental organization.

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