During a recent trip to Kamakura, Japan we met Yasuko and Keitaro Hashimoto. Every morning and evening they walk their two poodles along the beach and collect any plastic they see on the shoreline along the way.
They told us of how they find plastic debris from across the world, rubbish from multiple different countries had all found its way onto their shore – but that’s not to suggest that Japan isn’t contributing to the problem. It was recently confirmed that the waters around Japan have a higher density of micro-plastics than the global average. A study of 29 rivers in the country found every single one to be contaminated with micro-plastics.
Earlier in the year the government announced a strategy to reduce plastic usage and encourage reusing and recycling in an attempt to protect their marine environments, due to be implemented by 2020. A small, but hugely welcomed step by Japan after they refused to sign the Ocean Plastic Charter last year – which was aimed at ensuring all plastic is recyclable. As the second largest consumer of plastic per capita, it’s evident that Japan is addicted to plastic. It is an endemic that has captured the entire nation, their industries and their lifestyles.
Currently, it’s estimated that over 3 million plastic bags are floating in Osaka Bay. Japan has undoubtedly fallen behind other developed nations on reducing usage of plastic and though the focus has shifted to the burgeoning ocean plastic crisis now, it feels like changes of greater significance are necessary to minimise the ecological cost of such overconsumption.
Yasuko showed us the origami she makes from newspapers to collect their dogs poo to try and avoid using more plastic bags and adding to the problem.