National | Regional voices: Chubu

Gifu women turn plastic waste found on beaches into accessories

Chunichi Shimbun

Four women in Tajimi, Gifu Prefecture, are creating accessories made from plastic fragments collected at beaches in Aichi Prefecture, selling them amid growing global concerns over the microplastic waste in the ocean.

The women, all in their 20s, say they hope people will have an opportunity to become aware of environmental issues on a daily basis by wearing the accessories.

“I was wondering if there is a way to contribute to society through making ornaments,” said Hinako Yamazaki, 23, who leads the project.

In April, Yamazaki came up with the idea of using microplastics and other plastic garbage when her friend who lives in the coastal city of Chita, Aichi Prefecture, told her that beaches are filled with plastic waste.

She went to a beach and was surprised to see plastic debris mixed in the sand.

Microplastics are defined as plastic particles less than 5 millimeters in diameter. They adsorb toxic chemicals and are being ingested by marine animals, thus climbing up the food chain.

Yurika Wada, 23, Risa Furuta, 23, and Mayuko Ando, 24, Yamazaki’s former junior high school classmates who played with her as members of a brass band, all live far from the seaside and didn’t have a particular interest in the issue of marine pollution.

After seeing an accessory produced by Yamazaki, however, the three were impressed by how pieces of plastic waste can be turned into cute accessories, and they decided to join her.

The women mainly make ear clips and earrings by embedding several different colors of plastic fragments in clear resin and putting them together with metallic parts.

It’s not hard to find materials for the accessories if they go to beaches. But the amount of plastic waste they can consume by making the items is limited compared to the large volume of waste.

“Collecting it is an endless task,” Wada said. “We felt powerless at times.”

They sell the accessories under the brand name Sobolon at a weekend flea market at the Showa Yokocho shopping street near Inuyama Castle in Inuyama, Aichi Prefecture, a couple of times a month.

People who buy them are surprised when they are told that they are made from plastic waste.

Wada said that before she joined the project, she didn’t even notice the waste when she went to beaches. “I hope people like me will learn about the issue (through the accessories).”

They plan to open an online shop and have launched a crowdfunding project at camp-fire.jp/projects/view/169608, soliciting funds until Monday.

This section features topics and issues from the Chubu region covered by the Chunichi Shimbun. The original article was published on Oct. 4.

GET THE BEST OF THE JAPAN TIMES
IN FIVE EASY PIECES WITH TAKE 5