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Plastic piling up in Japan after China waste import ban

57 Comments
By Toshifumi Kitamura

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Somebody else's problem just became Japan's problem.

7 ( +19 / -12 )

Maybe, just maybe, there will be someone somewhere in a position of power who may look at this and think “hmmm, would it be better if we produced less of this waste?”

30 ( +33 / -3 )

It always has been Japan's problem not someone else's.

24 ( +27 / -3 )

China and other SE Asian countries have become a dumping ground for waste from all over the world. Japan for all the good that it has here, is a country, in general, that produces an awful lot of garbage!

Sure when we put out our garbage it HAS to be separated and ready for disposal, but what happens to it after it gets picked up is something not a lot of people want to think about.

Out of sight-out of mind mentality.

25 ( +28 / -3 )

Same problem Australia faced a quile back when China stopped taking waste which is fair enough. We are a bit further down this road. Would be great to see Aus & Japan work together on this. Maybe something innovative comes out of it in terms of treatment.

8 ( +10 / -2 )

Well, that'll learn ye. The warnings have been coming for years, about the wastefulness. Mottainai isn't just a word.

13 ( +16 / -3 )

Matt & Yubaru: Agreed.

China is forcing other countries to go green by going green. Nice display of its soft power.

14 ( +16 / -2 )

So, why, when an article is already wrapped, do they have to place it in a light plastic bag and then in a plastic shopping bag? What about using biodegradable plastics? Charging for plastic bags in supermarkets not the cost of production, but the cost of disposal?

12 ( +15 / -3 )

Why do I get the feeling this is going to cost me and you more money and yet the problem will still exist.

Cash grab time.

10 ( +12 / -2 )

BBC reports that Malaysia is now accepting a lot of it. Before , China put it in landfills near the coast. Then when a typhoon came it magically made more room in the landfill for plastic. Where did it go? Out to sea! Search it on YouTube. It’s still flowing out to sea every day! Japan needs to get over the cultural plastic packaging nonsense.

13 ( +14 / -1 )

Sounds like as of last January, there should have been a call for using less plastic bags, while having free recycle bag give a ways. Change the usual triple, plastic wrapping's, to a single eco-wrap. And in time, go back to using re-usable glass bottles for water.

Any one of these suggestions will only help a little, but waiting until now before reacting shows a need to change our mindset, referring to businesses & consumers.

9 ( +9 / -0 )

Maybe something innovative comes out of it in terms of treatment

Lol yeah ok. Snow has larger chances of falling in the Sahara than this happening.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

We need laws that ban excess packaging. I bought a package of batteries the other day which was put into a small clear bag and then into a regular shopping bag (I handed both back to the cashier since they were unnecessary). When I got home and went to use the batteries they were wrapped together in plastic and then each of them were individually wrapped in plastic...

If companies can’t self-regulate this kind of thing I think the governement should step in with some new laws.

12 ( +13 / -1 )

If companies can’t self-regulate this kind of thing I think the governement should step in with some new laws.

Your faith in Japanese companies to self-regulate when it will affect their profits and the Japanese government to enact laws that cost their financial backers money is touching in the extreme.

12 ( +13 / -1 )

It's the same everywhere since China stopped accepting it. Here in Seattle they keep enacting new laws for recycling, but after we separate it all, it still just gets dumped in a landfill with the regular garbage.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

50% of imported oil is used for plastic. We need to reduce and reuse. I wash and reuse all plastic bags from the supermarket. I dry and reuse tissues 2 or3 times.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

Although they pride themselves on separating garbage which they do seem to do extremely well , the next step might be to try and reduce it. It just doesn’t seem to be on the radar here. So much waste.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

祖so tbat video of changing plastic back into oil?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

You mean all these years our plastic waste was being shipped off to China?! ...I didn't know that. Always thought that annoying over-packaging in recycling-conscious Japan was ultimately alright due to (clean) incineration. They just shipped it off to China?! I'm miffed.

8 ( +9 / -1 )

best way to reduce garbage? Don't buy plastic. Paper and wood are ecological choices. Oh and that campaign to stop kids and schools using wood waribash is so friggin wrong. They replaced them with plastic.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

A little too late. Plastic waste is growing day by day. With the costs of disposal more and more will be illegally dumped. To counter this a new easier way to dispose plastic (at home) has to be invented.

Shops should sell plastic bags instead of giving them for free to force people to use ecobags more.

And yes, some companies need to use less packaging for their products.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Why not melt it into a giant huge solid cube of plastic? Say about 20 or 30 foot wide.

Then we build a nice seawall with all these cubes. They take a lot of plastic each and wont be breaking down into tiny pieces.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

The wrapping of every cookie and chip in its own plastic shell along with all other foodstuffs is coming home to roost

10 ( +10 / -0 )

Coincidentally, just before coming here, I had skimmed an interesting article about the plastic recycling situation in the UK.

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/oct/18/uk-recycling-industry-under-investigation-for-and-corruption

zenzenToday  08:25 am JST

“You mean all these years our plastic waste was being shipped off to China?! ...”

Depends on where you live. I know of at least a couple cities in Japan that stopped collecting plastic packaging for recycling and switched to collecting it mixed with ordinary household waste that is incinerated. As I mentioned in another thread the other day, my city does this.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Perhaps Japan should stop using so much plastic. Nearly everything is wrapped two or three times. If you buy a pack of cookies you end up with more plastic than cookies. I am a plastic aware shopper. I try to buy products that are not overly wrapped and use my own shopping bag. However, regardless of my attempts to avoid plastics I still end up with at least a 20ltr bag of plastic waste each week. That’s just for two people. Times that by half of the population and you can imagine how much plastic waste is generated in Japan every week. Fruits and vegetables are a joke. Things like potatoes, carrots, apples and many more fruits that have a solid skin are all sold in plastic. Instead of worrying about how to get rid of plastic, they should be more concerned about how to stop over-using it.

10 ( +10 / -0 )

Are there any SE Asian nations for Japan to negitiate a deal with to accept the plastics? Malaysia, Vietnam or Indonesia? All have ports for shipping.

-13 ( +2 / -15 )

Go back to paper bags at supermarkets. Glass bottles for drinks inc. water. Wooden crates. Only bag items at convenience stores IF the customer asks for one. No more plastic wrapping bananas, oranges and other fruits/vegetables. Wrap pastries, sandwiches, dessert in wax paper. (Basically try going back to what we did before the 70s.)

12 ( +13 / -1 )

Go back to paper bags at supermarkets.

Impossible, paper is more expensive than plastic and we will go back to our earlier problem for which plastic was invented, to reduce cutting trees (not that it helped one bit).

Glass bottles sounds good but the weight will have people complaining.

-6 ( +0 / -6 )

Japan should look to Sweden, I believe Sweden has been very successful with incineration, even running out of garbage. Waste recovery works well so it's not all just burnt up into the atmosphere. Beat trying to change habits

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Charging for plastic bags in supermarkets not the cost of production, but the cost of disposal?

My city office is doing something like that. From this month, garbage bags that used to be 30 for 350 yen are now 10 for 500 yen.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Impose a 10 yen tax on them, refundable when they are recycled. Make your own tea and use a thermos. Other drinks could be put in biodegradable packs like those juice comes in, or in glass.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

There IS a solution, but no one ever wants to implement it.

But it can be done. If governments have the will.

Think VAT. For plastic. With all revenue from this VAT going into a segregated revenue account whose proceeds would be used exclusively to cover recycling / disposal costs.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Are there any SE Asian nations for Japan to negitiate a deal with to accept the plastics? Malaysia, Vietnam or Indonesia? All have ports for shipping.

Japan should take care of its own waste , not just ship it somewhere else. So should every other country.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

The Japanese ministry said it will expand domestic capacity to process plastic waste, while also preventing illegal dumping.

This should just be an emergency measure for the time being.

I'd like them to start from the roots of plastic waste issue, to be said decrease its usage from the industry and mostly start a campaign that instructs people about waste issues, there's such a lack of self consciousness, superficiality.

Plastic bags are definitely a plague here...a massive step might be to introduce biodegradable ones (why not here yet!?), and the next step is to bring your eco bag with you, that would be the plastic bag death.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Most grocery stores are pretty good about the plastic bags these days at least. When I shop at places like AEON, Apita, etc they don't give me plastic bags unless I ask for and pay for them.

Conbinis on the other hand are absolutely horrible about it. Even if I buy one little thing like a candy bar that I obviously don't need a bag for, the idiots behind the counter just whip one out and throw it into one before I can tell them not to. So I always have to be proactive and go out of my way to not receive useless plastic that will just end up in the garbage, which is the opposite of how it should be.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

My city office is doing something like that. From this month, garbage bags that used to be 30 for 350 yen are now 10 for 500 yen.

My taxes pay for this. So I gotta pay twice now? If that's the case, they can sort it out themselves.

Now I know it all goes in the same pit anyway!

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

Japan has a serious plastic addiction.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Of course "ganbarejapan" has yet another oh so great idea.

We use it, we produce it ... but please, don't make it our problem.

Japan should and have to take care of that problem.

Don't put the burden on other countries just because it is so convenient!

6 ( +6 / -0 )

People seperate their rubbish and naively believe that most is recycled. It isn't. Glass and cans can be recycled and some industrial plastics but domestic plastic waste cannot be recycled as it's dirty, no matter what it says on the label and how much you rinse those PET bottles.

The amount of PET bottles used here is mind boggling, people buying cases of plastic bottles of tea and water to take home. People can't make tea anymore, drink from a tap. If people really have to buy these things put them in glass bottles or cans. When I was a kid if you took glass bottles back to the shop you got a penny for each one.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

Lol yeah ok. Snow has larger chances of falling in the Sahara than this happening.

Three times in the last 40 years... So there could still be a chance.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Just going to create more complaining about China and how it is screwing Japan.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Ganbare Japan! -- Are there any SE Asian nations for Japan to negitiate a deal with to accept the plastics? Malaysia, Vietnam or Indonesia? All have ports for shipping.

Oh, yes! Just ship it offshore to make it someone else's problem. Such a typically Japanese response. And, the funniest part of that statement is, all those countries mentioned are the ones responsible for the majority of the plastic in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. They cannot process their own plastics and you wan to give them more? Seriously? Japan needs to take drastic action to reduce its use of plastics and not ship them off to be someone else's problem

7 ( +7 / -0 )

Chickens coming home to roost.

As soon as Japan realises that it has to deal with its own waste and has nowhere to put it, then it's attitude and laws will change pretty quickly.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I am surprised that Japan with all it's technology cannot seem to deal with this.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

It's  always has been Japan's problem not someone else's.

Agreed. The sarcasm in my original part might not have been obvious.

Japan has been treating it's own garbage as somebody else's problem and so been highly irresponsible in how it uses plastic.

WWe need a simultaneous plastic tax on manufacturers, retailers and consumers.

Watch the demand for plastic collapse.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

The thing that horrifies me to see is conbini customers being handed their newly-bought single snack in a plastic bag, they walk a metre towards the exit, take their snack out the bag and bin it right there. Absolutely no second thought from the customer or the staff. There is something SERIOUSLY wrong with that.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

As numerous other posters have pointed out, this isn't just Japan's problem. China's justifiable refusal to accept any more plastic waste from other countries has really put the onus of responsibility for dealing with the waste back on the source nations. In Australia we've banned single-use plastic plastic bags from supermarkets, but that's hardly the whole or even the main problem. The problem when it comes to countries dealing with their own waste, if those countries are anything like Australia, is that no-one - and we're talking about voters here, the way the government sees it - wants the industrial plants needed to process that waste to be located in their own neighbourhoods. So nothing gets done.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

worrying about plastic bags is meaningless compared to every item covered in plastic in the bag

4 ( +4 / -0 )

The accepted hierarchy is”Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” recycling is the least best option just above doing nothing. The only solution is to reduce the dependence on plastic. The root of that is the disposable culture that has been fostered by business so as to encourage consumption and boost profits. Goods need to be made to last and used until they fail/fall apart.

There are ways of achieving this without sinking the economy, firms can still make a profit but without destroying the planet, but to explain the complex of changes necessary would require me to write an article not a post!

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Hasn’t anyone figured out yet how to make money from waste?

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

Add to that Japan has an over-packaging problem

3 ( +3 / -0 )

@Matt Hartwell

Right.

As they said, "Necessity is the mother of invention."

0 ( +0 / -0 )

China was likely just going to dump it at sea so. https://www.forbes.com/sites/hannahleung/2018/04/21/five-asian-countries-dump-more-plastic-than-anyone-else-combined-how-you-can-help/#fe66eaf12349

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

All of us have to refuse plastic in supermarkets and department stores.

It's easy to do....

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Just ship it all to the Middle East. They will make use of it.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

This is the perfect time to open national dialogue on the wasteful use of plastics in Japan........... but I guess we will have to keep on waiting for that to be addressed.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Also, Japan recently refused to sign the G7 pact on reducing plastic pollution didn't they......

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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