Plastic pollution in the world's oceans poses an increasingly grave environmental hazard. Japan, which relies on the ocean for its survival, is urged to take a more proactive role in international efforts to combat the problem through recycling and cutting back on the manufacturing and use of disposable plastic products.

Japan, along with the United States, abstained from signing the "Ocean Plastic Charter" that was endorsed by other Group of Seven members and the European Union at the G7 summit held earlier this month in Canada. The charter set a target of ensuring, in cooperation with industrial sectors, 100 percent reuse, recycling and collection of all plastic products by 2030, thus significantly reducing the volume of plastic waste. The government explained that Japan was not ready for tight regulations on plastic products because it has to carefully assess the impact on people's lives and its industries. True, Japan is a major consumer of disposable plastic products such as plastic shopping bags and product wrappings — but this also means that the nation can do a lot to combat the plastic waste problem.

According to the United Nations Environment Program, the amount of plastic waste produced worldwide has been increasing every year and it hit 300 million tons in 2015. Disposable plastic products such as PET bottles and shopping bags account for 47 percent of the total. While China accounts for the largest volume of such waste, Japan ranks second only to the U.S. in terms of the per-capita volume of disposable plastic waste.