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Japan to ask municipalities to dispose of industrial plastic waste as trash piles up due to China ban

  • May 17, 2019
  • , The Japan Times
  • English Press

The Environment Ministry plans to ask municipalities to accept and dispose of industrial plastic waste as an emergency step, as the amount of such waste has been increasing since China banned imports, sources have said.


The ministry is set to make the request to municipal governments by the end of this month, the sources said Thursday.


Under the nation’s waste management system, municipalities collect and dispose of household plastic waste while recycling businesses authorized by prefectures process industrial plastic waste, which is better suited for recycling because the origins of such materials are clear and are abundant in quantity.


Municipalities that accept the request will pass on the costs for incineration to companies generating industrial plastic by revising related ordinances, the sources said, adding that winning consent from local residents is also a condition.


Japan exported some 1.5 million tons of plastic waste as recycle material in 2016 and 1.4 million tons in 2017, according to trade statistics from the Finance Ministry.


After China banned imports of plastic waste at the end of 2017, Japan has seen such materials build up. Before the introduction of the ban, China was a major importer of the country’s plastic waste.


On May 10, signatories to the so-called Basel convention, a pact that includes Japan and is aimed at reducing trade in toxic waste, adopted a revision to the pact to add dirty plastic waste to the list of items subject to restriction.


“Pollution from plastic waste, acknowledged as a major environmental problem of global concern, has reached epidemic proportions with an estimated 100 million tonnes of plastic now found in the oceans, 80-90 percent of which comes from land-based sources,” Rolph Payet, executive secretary at U.N. Environment for the Basel, Rotterdam & Stockholm Conventions, said in a statement.


With the revised pact taking effect in January 2021, plastic waste exports to countries other than China will also become difficult.


Of some 9 million tons of annual plastic waste in Japan, about 1 million tons is collected from households as recyclable material. Dirty plastic waste is disposed of as combustible garbage.

Industrial plastic waste, including from factories, offices and retail shops, totals about 7 million tons, which is recycled, incinerated, used for landfill or exported to other countries.


According to the Environment Ministry, some municipalities are now believed to have extra capacity in their garbage incinerators due to falling populations and residents’ growing awareness of recycling.

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