UNU-IAS Seminar Explores Solutions to Problem of Plastic Waste

  • 2019•03•04     Tokyo

    On 25 January, the UNU Institute for the Advanced Study of Sustainability (UNU-IAS) and the Global Environment Outreach Centre (a joint initiative of UNU–IAS and the Ministry of the Environment of Japan) jointly organised a seminar to discuss solutions to the problem of plastic waste. The event aimed to raise awareness, share scientific insights, and discuss concrete action to be taken through multi-stakeholder partnerships.

    In his keynote presentation, Tetsuji Ida of Kyodo News gave a comprehensive overview of the problem of plastic waste, highlighting the interrelationship between poverty and the environment in the developing countries. He also raised concerns that, although the issues of plastic waste have been a problem since the 1990s, mass-production and mass-consumption lifestyles have not been changed. He noted that in Japan a massive amount of plastic waste is burned in a method called “thermal recycling.” He emphasised a need to transform our lifestyles as well as policies, and urged the adoption of a combined approach using economic incentives and regulation.

    Jun Harukawa of the Miyakojima Sea Environmental Network addressed the current state of Miyako Island beaches and its cleanup initiatives. He reported that the volume of the waste on the beaches exceeds the capacity of the incinerator on the island, and that some dangerous waste, including syringes and high-pressure gas containers, is being left on the beaches as they cannot be disposed of by volunteers.

    Yasushi Nakazato from the Ministry of the Environment of Japan (MOEJ) introduced the ministry’s research projects that are gathering scientific evidence on the impacts of plastic pollution on ecosystems, as well as making future projections. He also discussed the Plastic Smart Campaign — a ministry-led platform to facilitate voluntary actions by a wide range of stakeholders.

    Yoshiharu Hayamizu (UNU-IAS/MOEJ) shared information from the latest global discussions of the UNEP Expert Group meeting. He emphasised that the meeting reached consensus on a need for a global collaborative effort to combat plastic pollution and for strengthened scientific knowledge of the issue. He also reported that the meeting discussed the global framework to combat plastic pollution.

    In a panel discussion, the speakers and participants actively discussed concrete measures to prevent plastic pollution. Topics included the need for a mechanism to engage people who are currently unaware or uninterested in the issue, the need for economic incentives to engage the private sector, the importance of starting innovative initiatives at the local level.

    For more, see the event report on the UNU-IAS website.