The government adopted Friday a policy package aimed at reducing plastic waste ahead of the Group of 20 summit in Osaka in late June, where the issue is expected to be a major agenda item.
The policies are intended to cut the flow of plastic waste into the ocean, promote plastic-bottle recycling in Japan and combat marine pollution by microplastics.
“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 told a ministerial conference, which finalized the policy package.
In the package, an action plan for slashing plastic waste inflow to the ocean calls for providing technical support for developing countries in Southeast Asia and other areas and the development of materials easily decomposable in nature, in addition to promoting recycling.
Under a strategy to significantly reduce plastic waste in Japan, Tokyo has set the goal of cutting disposable plastic waste by 25 percent by 2030 and completely recycling or reusing all such waste, including items used in scrapped household electric appliances and auto parts, by 2035.
The strategy also obliges retailers to charge for plastic bags and calls for expanding the use of bioplastics derived from renewable sources such as plants.
Another plan regarding ocean microplastics asks companies to curb the use of microbeads used in facewash and toothpaste, and in municipalities near rivers to prevent plastic waste from flowing into the sea.
The government has been stepping up its efforts to reduce plastic waste after it came under international criticism for not signing the Ocean Plastics Charter at the Group of Seven summit in Canada last year, citing a “lack of preparedness.” The United States also did not sign the pact.
Many countries are grappling with increasing amounts of plastic waste that degrades into small pieces when exposed to ultraviolet light and abrasion. Pieces measuring less than 5 millimeters in length are called microplastics.
They are difficult to collect once they enter water, tend to adsorb harmful chemicals and accumulate inside fish, birds and other animals as they make their way up the food chain.
Over 8 million tons of plastic waste is estimated to flow into the oceans every year.