As our society keeps growing and keeps seemingly being addicted to single-use plastic articles, the plastic trash around the globe is inevitably piling up. The population growth coupled with the Chinese import ban on plastic trash for recycling or disposing purposes leaves Japan struggling to keep up with global exporting demand. Subsequent to China’s historic ban on the import of other nations’ plastic waste, latest data from Japan’s Environmental Ministry shows that local governments in the island nation are submerging in garbage that they don’t know how to properly dispose of.
In research data published late October, there is strong evidence that roughly 25% of the 102 local Japanese Governments are struggling with disposing of their waste. The plastic waste is stockpiling in the local garbage facilities, reaching and partially even exceeding the legal limit. According to The Japan Times, this issue was brought to light after these local governments responded to an Environmental Ministry inquiry questionnaire, in which they basically acknowledged that they do not know what to do with the insurmountable amounts of waste.
According to Japanese industry estimates,Tokyo sends about 1 and a half million tons of plastic waste abroad on a per annum basis. Until the aforementioned ban by Beijing in 2017, a projected 50% of this plastic waste was exported to China, which was up until the ban, the world’s largest importer of plastic waste. The findings were published by Japan’s Environmental Ministry after the leading of a six-month long polling survey, in which 122 local governments and over 600 waste disposing facilities were asked to participate.
The most conservative estimate is that 5 local governments were found to have reached or exceeded their capacities as well as 34 others that stated to struggle with the inhumane piles of waste. Although the Environmental Ministry denoted that overall plastic waste disposal increased by at least 56%, it is also estimated that a minimum increase of 25% of plastic trash is dumped into landfills. In these landfills the garbage is simply buried in the hopes that it will degrade over time.
According to the Ministry, poll results also point to garbage processing companies wanting to restrict the intake of plastic waste, which would ramp up the stress on local communities even further. Up until now, the Japanese government has not reported cases of illegal dumping sites of disposing facilities, nevertheless, industry watchdogs are concerned. If no solution to the problem is found, illegal dumping sites and disposing facilities will inevitably pop up.
Japan is regrettably the world’s second largest exporter of plastic waste per capita and has continuously fallen behind other developed nations’ standards in limiting or outright banning single-use plastics including single-use shopping bags. Vietnam in addition to Indonesia have ramped up their plastic waste imports, but these countries also struggle to keep up with the 25,000 to 86,000 tons of plastic trash that Japan exports monthly.
In this sense, Japanese officials are considering an implementation of mandatory charges for consumers – through retailers – in the hopes of reducing single-use plastic bag usage rates drastically, as well as other micro-plastics used in cosmetics.
In conclusion, industry watchdogs as well as environmental experts alike, agree on the fact that globally 80% of the plastic waste is not recycled, ending up in landfills as well as the oceans. Fearing the negative effects of the immensely increasing amount of plastic waste, Beijing banned the import of non-industrial plastic waste, which inevitably blocks tons of plastic waste that was exported beforehand. This leads to the fact that many nations now must deal with overflowing garbage dumps.
According to contemporary estimates, about 320 million tons of plastic waste are produced annually, of which China used to import roughly 8 million tons. So, what now?