Been hearing more about the plastic waste problem lately, but wondering how serious it actually is?
In 2016, the following points were pointed out at the Davos Conference, where more than 2,000 people, including leaders of each country, business owners, and heads of international organisations, discussed a wide range of topics such as economy, security, energy, and the latest technology.
・ The plastic waste equivalent to 500 billion 500 ml plastic bottles leaks into the world’s oceans every year
・ By 2050, the amount of plastic waste will exceed the amount of fish in the seas
Even more shockingly, the area of the plastic that was washed away by the ocean current called the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” is 1.6 million square kilometres / 617 763 sq miles. This distance equals that of three times the size of France or twice the size of Texas! It has become a global problem.
Every year in the world, approximately 300 million tonnes of plastic is produced and estimated 50% of that amount is single-use plastics only. Plastic products made from petroleum require additional energy for recycling. As consumers, we are also required to take actions to reduce plastic waste, such as not purchasing them or recycling plastic products.
Zero plastic movement
In Europe, plastic shopping bags are charged for in the markets. In various places in the world, the movement toward zero plastics is spreading more rapidly.
In France, the world’s first law banning disposable plastic cups and plates was enacted and is scheduled to come into effect in January 2021.
The behind the scenes reason for this is the fact that 150 disposable cups are discarded per second in France, and only 1% are recycled, mainly due to the mixture of polypropylene and styrene resin (as of 2016). Regarding disposable tableware products, there is a move to abolish disposable plastic products by initiatives such as requiring the use of 50% of biological materials that can be composted with household compost. Items such as bamboo disposable flatware and plates fit this description.
In the Netherlands in 2018, the world’s first supermarket opened a plastic-free sales floor with 700 non-plastic products. In addition to biodegradable biomaterials, materials such as glass, metal, cardboard, etc. are used for food packaging. This supermarket aims to set up a sales floor for clearing plastics at all 74 stores in the Netherlands.
The UK has set out a policy to wipe out plastic waste by 2042.
As a measure already taken, the price of plastic shopping bags was charged in 2015. The price per bag has since increased, thus reducing the number of plastic shopping bags by 6 billion in one year.
Individual-level activities are also increasing. Some of the players from the British professional soccer team and their wives have opened a store with zero rubbish in the southwestern part of England. Shoppers are encouraged to bring their own containers as the shop sells over 200 organic products by weight, from dry foods to liquid detergents for washing dishes.
Surprisingly, in Africa, as of 2019, more than 34 countries are leading the world with regulations such as the abolition of plastic shopping bags.
In Kenya, in particular, a very strict ban has been issued that affects not only manufacturing, selling and importing, but also using plastic shopping bags can result in a four-year imprisonment or a fine of up to $ 40,000. Kenya is taking this seriously, making this the toughest plastic bag ban in the world.
Recycling plastic bottles
By the way, when it comes to plastic, plastic bottles may be familiar. The recycling rate is 40% in Europe and 20% in the United States. Recycling takes a large amount of additional energy, so it is always preferable to use reusable items as opposed to single-use plastics.
Regarding recycling, as countries are refusing to accept waste plastics, there is a possibility that it will not be possible to export waste plastics. A practice that had previously been relied on in many areas, so future efforts for the reduction of waste are necessary. Services which refill or recycle plastic bottles are becoming prevalent. Here are some interesting services offered by private companies in Japan.
MUJI will start water supply service in July 2020. Water dispensers are installed in more than 130 stores within Japan. There are water supply points which can be found on the map by using the dedicated app “Water-Muji Life”.
Zojirushi is a company which is a global manufacturer selling rice cookers, electric kettles, thermos etc. On their website, it is possible to find a shop that will bottle the tea you ordered instead of water. There are cafes that are open all over the country that make coffee, but not so many that make tea.
Not only drinks but also detergents
As introduced in the case of the United Kingdom, sales of other containers by weight are gradually expanding.
The New Zealand brand “ecostore” sells detergents by weight at several stores, and we have begun experimentally selling detergents by weight at convenience stores in Japan such as in Natural Lawson from August 2020.
Would you like to see a change in consumer behavior?
So many initiatives have come into place as of recent in order to dissuade from the purchase of single use plastics or to encourage reuse. It is a safe assessment to make that the countries which have instituted a charge for plastic shopping bags have seen a decrease in the amount of single use plastic shopping bags used and an increase in reusable (or reused) shopping bags and baskets.
With the current Covid-19 pandemic, many people are wearing fashionable cloth masks which can be cleaned and reused many times as opposed to the single-use masks.
Plastic waste is not the only serious waste problem, but also issues such as food waste are something which need to be discussed openly.
Why not look for an environment-friendly service in your local area or travel destination and begin with a lifestyle that not only sustains you but one which is enjoyed and does not create more waste?
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