The government’s plan for reducing plastic waste, adopted by a subcommittee of the Central Environment Council, calls for a 25 percent reduction of single-use disposable plastic waste by 2030, mandating that retail shops charge customers for plastic shopping bags to reduce their use and to significantly expand the adoption of more environmentally friendly materials. These step are urgently needed at a time when the pollution of the world’s oceans by plastic waste is increasingly raising concerns over threat it poses to the marine ecosystem and ultimately, through the food chain, to human health. However, the plan needs to be followed up by more specific measures to achieve the targets. The base year for measuring the 25 percent cut in disposable plastic waste has not been specified, reportedly in view of objections raised by related industries.

The global output of plastic waste reportedly topped 300 million tons in 2015, a sixfold increase since the 1980s, and it is forecast to expand even more in the future. Only about 15 percent of such waste is recycled. It’s estimated that during the disposal process, up to 8 million tons of plastic waste ends up in the ocean. Of particular concern is the danger the plastic pollution can pose to human health by way of microplastics, which absorb harmful substances and accumulate inside fish, birds and other animals as they make their way up the food chain. China produces the world’s largest volume of plastic waste at about 40 million tons. But on a per-capita basis Japan is second only to the United States in annual plastic waste output.

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