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Plastic Waste Disposal Needs International Cooperation
Time: 2019/9/23 11:10:42 Source:绿凯思科GETRECYCLING Author:GET营销中心 Hits:222

Faced with the increasingly serious pollution problem of marine plastic waste in recent years, the Conference of the Parties to the Basel Convention, aiming at restricting the international transfer of hazardous waste, adopted an amendment in Geneva, Switzerland, on May 10, 2019, which decided to include plastic waste in the object of import and export restrictions and entered into force on January 1, 2021. This is the first international law to restrict plastic waste in the world. At the G20 Osaka Summit, member states also discussed the issue of plastic waste disposal. All parties reached a consensus on the "Osaka Blue Ocean Vision" and agreed to reduce marine plastic waste to zero by 2050. Japan is a big plastic waste manufacturing country. Its plastic production ranks third in the world and the per capita plastic waste ranks second in the world. Therefore, more attention should be paid to the problem of plastic waste. However, Japan's plastic waste disposal has long relied on overseas exports, and recycling system has become fragile. Japan will face the plastic waste treatment crisis directly and build a new recycling system, which will become an important issue to be solved urgently in Japan.


Plastic Waste Disposal in Japan Faces Crisis


Japan produces about 9.4 million tons of plastic waste annually, half of which comes from industrial waste and half from ordinary households. In daily life, once shopping bags, disposable containers, straws and other necessities are used, plastic garbage will be formed after discarding. There are roughly three ways to dispose of plastic waste in Japan: recycling and reuse in Japan, dissolving into other commodities or fuels; incinerating or landfilling; and exporting to developing countries. Among them, export is the main way adopted by Japan in recent years. For example, in 2018, Japan exported more than 126,000 tons of plastic waste to Vietnam, twice as much as in 2017. In addition, Japan's plastic waste exports to Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines and other countries also increased significantly in 2018, six times as much as in 2017. However, the infrastructure and system of garbage disposal in Southeast Asian countries are not perfect, so they can not cope with the surge of plastic garbage. Moreover, people in these countries are not aware of environmental protection and are not familiar with the methods and regulations of garbage disposal, which results in a large part of plastic garbage that can not be disposed of flowing into the ocean and aggravates marine pollution. The amendment to the Basel Convention stipulates that plastic waste can not be exported to the other country without the permission of the other country. As a result, Japan's export of plastic waste to overseas doors are basically sealed, a large number of plastic waste piled up in the domestic, urgent to deal with.

However, the current situation in Japan is that the plastic waste disposal in Japan has been over-dependent on exports for a long time, a large number of resource waste flows overseas, and the domestic resource waste decreases year by year, which makes the scale of recycling and reuse industry shrink continuously, resulting in the weakening of the recycling and reuse system of plastic waste in Japan. In other words, exporting plastic waste overseas reduces the way of recycling in Japan. Now, because the recycling and reuse industry in Japan can not cope with a large number of plastic waste in a short period of time, the plastic that should be the resource has turned into garbage piled up in Japan instead.


It is imminent to rebuild recycling regeneration system


Faced with the plastic waste disposal crisis, the Japanese government is determined to make great efforts to reduce plastic waste. In 2018, Japan's Ministry of Environment formulated a draft strategy for reducing plastic waste, setting a target of 25% reduction in waste emissions from plastic bottles, shopping bags and disposable plastic lunch boxes by 2030, and increasing the use of plant-based biomaterials for environmental protection to 2 million tons. On June 3, 2019, Japan's environment minister, Ichiro Harada, announced that legislation would prohibit the free supply of plastic shopping bags in convenience stores and supermarkets nationwide. The Ministry of Environment also said that the Container Packaging Recycling Law, which stipulates the classification and recycling rules for waste plastics, would be amended as soon as next year. It can be seen that Japan will strictly control the production of plastic garbage in life and reduce the production of plastic garbage from the source. However, rebuilding a stable recycling and reuse system as soon as possible is the key to solving the plastic waste problem in Japan.


First, efforts should be made to improve the recycling efficiency of plastic waste. Nowadays, many of the recycled plastic garbage can not be recycled because it is not clean or mixed with other garbage. Therefore, in order to improve the recycling efficiency of plastic waste, it is necessary to strictly manage the disposal of plastic waste. According to Japanese media reports, in order to recycle more and cleaner plastic bottles, more than 300 convenience stores in Tokyo and Qiyu prefecture have placed plastic bottle recycling machines in their stores. Citizens can get corresponding points by putting plastic bottles into their stores, but the requirement must be to remove labels and bottle caps and plastic bottles without dirty residues in the bottles. This measure can not only improve the recovery rate of clean plastic bottles, but also help to cultivate people's correct concept of discarding plastic waste. In addition, Japanese beverage manufacturers have taken action. Sandeli's plastic bottles for "barley tea" packaging are partly recycled from old plastic bottles. If the above measures are extended to Japan as a whole, it is bound to improve the recycling efficiency of plastic waste and help to establish a good recycling system.

Secondly, we are committed to the innovation of recycling and reuse technology. Japan has begun the reform of recycling equipment and technology. The Japanese government calls for public-private cooperation to develop plastic materials that can be dissolved in seawater and have the least impact on the marine environment. Some companies are turning to biodegradable plastics and special paper products instead of disposable plastic packaging. Japan's largest supplier of plastic shopping bags also said it was working to establish a production mechanism for biodegradable plastic films to meet social needs. In addition, Suntory, a Japanese beverage maker, has used the "physical recycling" technology to realize the innovation of 100% recycled PET raw materials into PET plastic bottles. Moreover, the energy consumption generated by this technology in the manufacturing process is only 40% of the petroleum raw material, which is more environmentally friendly. Although compared with plastic bottles made from petroleum, the cost is not high, but considering the rising price of petroleum, resource exhaustion and other factors, this technology has been well promoted.


Thirdly, a stable recycling system should be built on the basis of improving recycling and reuse efficiency. In June 2018, the Japanese government announced the Basic Plan for Promoting the Formation of the 4th Circulating Society, and on this basis began to formulate and formally promulgate the "Plastic Resource Circulation Strategy". While considering the economic and technological feasibility, the strategy will ultimately achieve the goal of multiple recycling by thoroughly recycling the used resources. At present, concrete measures have been taken to reduce the use of plastics such as disposable packaging containers, which can help to reduce the environmental load; to recycle and reuse plastic resources thoroughly and effectively; and to improve the practicability of bioplastics and the production skills of petrochemical plastics substitutes. Through the promotion of this strategy, the Japanese government hopes to develop the resource recycling industry extensively, accelerate the treatment of plastic waste and solve the problem of marine plastic waste, and contribute to sustainable development.


Plastic Waste Disposal Needs International Cooperation


To deal with the problem of plastic waste disposal, not only countries need to take active measures, but also need to solve it through international cooperation. The revision of the Basel Convention is the first step of international cooperation among the States parties. It also shows that plastic waste disposal and marine pollution control have become a global issue that all countries in the world attach great importance to. The United Nations General Assembly, the G-7 Summit and the G-20 Leaders Summit have made marine waste disposal an important issue. In the declaration of the 2016 G7 ISEMO Summit, resource utilization was mentioned, plastics waste production should be restrained and reduced, and marine waste treatment should be focused on. The 2017 Hamburg Summit of G20 unanimously adopted the "G20 Action Plan for Marine Waste". In June 2019, the G20 Ministerial Conference on Energy and Environment adopted a joint statement including the reduction of marine plastic waste, and decided to create an international organization for waste disposal information sharing. At the G20 Osaka Summit, the host Japan actively promoted the inclusion of plastic waste in the agenda for a broader and deeper discussion, and proposed to reduce marine plastic waste to zero by 2050 as the goal of achieving the agreement of "Osaka Blue Ocean Vision". In addition, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the ASEAN Summit have discussed the treatment of marine plastic waste.

The Chinese government has always attached great importance to garbage disposal. On the issue of plastic waste, China and Japan have begun to cooperate. According to Kyodo News Agency of Japan on May 11, the Chinese and Japanese governments held a "high-level consultation on ocean affairs" on May 10 in Otaru, Hokkaido. In addition, China has actively participated in the meeting of environment ministers of China, Japan and South Korea to seek international consensus and cooperation on waste disposal. On June 24, 2018, the 20th China-Japan-ROK Conference of Ministers of Environment was held in China. It was decided to strengthen cooperation among the three countries to jointly solve the problem of marine garbage, including the problem of micro-plastics that may affect the marine ecological environment.

In a word, the current export restriction of plastic waste has made Japan into a predicament, but at the same time it has brought new opportunities to Japan. Japan takes this opportunity to promote the implementation of the strategy of recycling plastic resources, rebuild a stable recycling and regeneration system, and realize a truly "recycling society". China and Japan have broad space for cooperation on waste disposal. They should actively strengthen communication and cooperation, work together to solve the problem of plastic waste pollution and make greater contributions to environmental governance in Asia and the world.

(Author: Institute of Japan, Tianjin Academy of Social Sciences)


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