There have been reports of the coronavirus pandemic helping nature to recover from excessive carbon emissions, but it has, for a number of reasons, lead to an increase in physical waste. Yes, a Japanese government initiative to charge customers for plastic bags in shops has had some success, but in the grand scheme of things, these bags only make up 2% of overall plastic waste. The ubiquitous plastic packaging still remains.

In the latest Timeout, contributor Mara Budgen takes a look at how Japanese companies are creating substitutes to fossil fuel-based plastics and thereby making us rethink how we make, use and dispose of products.

Edish tableware is made from paper pulp and food waste, such as from mandarin oranges. | ©EDISH
Edish tableware is made from paper pulp and food waste, such as from mandarin oranges. | ©EDISH

The key is to cultivate a “circular economy” in which materials are recycled or reused over and over again. Recent made-in-Japan innovations that support a sustainable future include a line of compostable tableware made from food waste and paper pulp and edible films made from seaweed.

Japanese trading houses also getting on board the Save the Planet train by reviewing business strategies that rely heavily on natural resources as a major source of profits. For example, Itochu Corp. is selling its 20% stake in a coal mine in Colombia as part of efforts to promote decarbonization.

Even the sports world is upping its green game. Late last year, the B. League’s Nagoya Diamond Dolphins joined a growing club of organizations that are implementing sustainable development goals and corporate social responsibility programs. One of those goals is reducing plastic usage by 83.1% before the end of the 2020-21 season by replacing plastic plates, forks and knives at concession stands and food trucks with biodegradable utensils. It’s a good start, but there’s ways to go: Currently, Nagoya is only the second Japanese team on the Sport for Climate Action platform.