Updated: Dec 31, 2019
By Rob Kaplan, forbes.com
In addition to playing host this week to the G-20, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his administration are fending off global criticism for Japan’s perceived status as G-7 laggard when it comes to causing plastic waste in the ocean. While Japan has extremely well-developed collection, recycling and waste management industries, it is also the world’s No. 2 consumer of single-use plastics (behind the U.S.).
And, while Japan did broker an agreement among G-20 environmental ministers earlier this month to begin sharing best practices and establishing standards for tracking marine plastic waste, the agreement stopped short of setting numerical goals or a timeline for progress.
All in all, many critics are underwhelmed.
As pointed out in a recent Associated Press story that ran in Time, Japan can’t recycle its way out of a plastic waste crisis. All countries must focus as well on reducing the production and consumption of plastics, too.
But the problem doesn’t stop there for Japan. To make matters worse, Japan, like all of the developed nations in the west, has had to contend with China’s recent ban on further imports of plastic trash shipments.
Southeast Asian countries, sensing an economic opportunity, have quickly stepped in to fill this void. But many of these countries don’t have advanced recycling and waste management industries (if any at all). And what’s more, environmental activists in some of the Southeast Asian countries, like Malaysia, as well as in global dialogues like the Basel Convention are pushing for imposing bans on the import of plastic waste.