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COUNTRY DEEP DIVE 3: IMPLEMENTATION OF A GLOBAL TREATY COULD HELP JAPAN AVOID COSTS ASSOCIATED
WITH THE PLASTIC CRISIS INCLUDING THE DETRIMENTAL IMPACT OF PLASTICS ON THE FISHING SECTOR AND GHG
EMISSIONS, WHILE PROVIDING JAPAN THE OPPORTUNITY TO CEMENT ITSELF AS A GLOBAL LEADER IN PLASTIC
ACTION.
The minimum lifetime cost of the plastic produced in 2019 imposed on
Japan is approximately US$108.69 billion (+/-US$30.64 billion), 235
including threats to the fisheries and aquaculture industry.
Japan is the second highest per
capita plastic packaging waste
generator in the world, with
plastic being an important part
of Japanese commerce. Plastic is
an integral part of society in Japan,
with single-use plastic wrapped
around individual pieces of food such
as bananas for food safety reasons.
As such, Japan produces around nine
million tonnes of plastic waste per
year,236
plastic waste inside their digestive
systems.241
This can impact both the
volume and quality of the fishing yield,
leading to reduced revenues for the
fishery sector and putting significant
numbers of jobs at risk. In 2018,
employment in the seafood sector,
including processing, accounted for
202,430 jobs.242
It can also increase
making it the second highest
per capita plastic packaging waste
generator in the world, second only to
the US.237
Plastic leakage from Japan and
its neighbours is polluting the
water bodies surrounding Japan
and threatening both tourism
and the fisheries and aquaculture
industry. Plastic pollution is
overwhelming the bodies of water
surrounding Japan; plastic levels in
East Asian seas are 16 times greater
than in the North Pacific and 27 times
greater than in the world oceans.238
the risk of ingestion of microplastics by
humans through consumption of the
contaminated fish.
What has been done so far:
Japan has developed a
sophisticated waste management
system which aims to recycle or
recover significant proportions of
plastic waste, therefore limiting
leakage into the environment. In
2000, the Basic Act for Establishing
a Sound-Material-Cycle Society came
into force.243
The act aimed to promote
The
Kansai Regional Union estimates that
3 million plastic bags and 6.1 million
pieces of vinyl linger in Osaka Bay. Lots
of debris is found in the offshore areas
surrounding Japan, much of which was
traced back to Japanese sources.239
This
waste is impacting the tourism industry
with plastic waste washing up on
many of Japan's beaches and deterring
visitors. This has the potential to be
highly damaging to Japan's economy,
with the travel and tourism industry
contributing more than USD$300
billion in 2019.240
This pollution also
affects Japan's fisheries; nearly 80%
of the 64 Japanese anchovies caught
during a survey of Tokyo Bay had
WWF INTERNATIONAL 2021
the three Rs (reduce, reuse, recycle)
and ensure proper waste management.
As part of this, waste is mandatorily
separated and plastic recycled, with
consumers educated on how to sort
and dispose of waste. There is relatively
high compliance, with the Japanese
population committed to undertaking
the sometimes complex task of sorting
their waste. This is a relatively efficient
system with strong potential to reduce
plastic leakage; according to the
UN, an effective waste management
system means that Japan accounts for
relatively limited leakages of single-use
plastics in the environment.244
However, there is still a
significant opportunity for the
government to improve the
effectiveness of their plastic
action and reduce the negative
consequences of plastic
production, use, and leakage in
Japan. According to official numbers,
in 2018 Japan recycled or recovered
84% of the plastic collected.245
However, this includes the 56% of
plastic waste that is incinerated for
energy.246
Therefore, the majority of
plastics are not being recycled into
new products, necessitating new
virgin plastic production. Additionally,
although Japan has implemented
emissions controls to reduce the
chemical pollutants produced from
incineration, incineration is still a
net contributor of GHG emissions.
Therefore, Japan's reliance on
incineration for waste management is
contributing to the climate crisis on
two fronts; directly from the emissions
produced from the process itself and
indirectly by contributing to GHG
emissions from new virgin plastic
production. There is also no regulation
on primary microplastics such as
microbeads and microfibers which
municipal sewage systems are typically
unable to remove. As a result, the
particles pass through the plant and are
discharged into nearby waters, further
contributing to plastic leakage and
imposing the associated costs.
How a treaty can help:
Support for a global treaty,
expressed by Japan in July 2021,
confirms Japan's leading voice
in action on plastics, whilst
providing an opportunity to
increase the effectiveness of

TCoPS

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of TCoPS

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http://europe.nxtbook.com/nxteu/wwfintl/dalbergreport2013-de
http://europe.nxtbook.com/nxteu/wwfintl/dalbergreport2013-fr
http://europe.nxtbook.com/nxteu/wwfintl/dalbergreport2013
http://europe.nxtbook.com/nxteu/wwf_france/rapport_dactivite_2011-2012
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