Growing Awareness of Plastic Waste Problem and Construction of Circular Economy in Japan

Domestic Trends in Bioplastics, as one of Key Solutions

With the introduction of the mandatory charge for single-use plastic shopping bags on July 1, 2020, the plastic waste problem seems to have become more familiar to consumers. In my opinion, it seems to me that in Japan, countermeasures of industries against plastic waste and their efforts to build a circular economy have taken precedence, and the awareness of consumers has not been attached importance. As a comparative example, in Europe, where consumer awareness of these and other issues is quite prominent, products are removed from the market if companies are judged not to be enough in their efforts. Bioplastics have recently been in the spotlight as a solution to these problems, and the purpose of this article is to describe the movements toward the introduction of bioplastics in Japan.

 

Domestic Movements toward the Introduction of Bioplastics

On July 28, 2020, the Ministry of the Environment held the second conference of the “Roadmap for the Introduction of Bioplastics” study group. Since the “Roadmap for Introduction of Bioplastics” was formulated as one of the key strategies in the “Strategy for Recycling of Plastic Resources” formulated in May last year, this study group has been working on to respond to the uses and materials in detail, while organizing appropriate evaluation scenarios (composting, bio-gasification, etc.) and harmonization of recycling through the evaluation of environmental and ethical aspects and the degradation function of biodegradable plastics.

At the first conference held on May 22, the milestones (Table 1) were established under the basic principle of “3R+Renewable”. Among other things, an ambitious target of introducing a maximum of approximately 2 million tons of bioplastics by 2030 was established. At the second conference, the six companies that participated in reported on their current efforts and prospects. They stressed the need for further efforts by companies and a change in consumer awareness regarding the future introduction of bioplastics in Japan.

Table1 Milestones on “3R+Renewable” by the first conference

Reduce 2030 Cumulative 25% reduction in single-use plastic emissions
Reuse

Recycle

2025 Change into reusable and recyclable design
2030 Reuse and recycle 60% of packaging
2035 Reuse and recycle 100% of used plastics
Bioplastics 2030 Double recycling
2030 Introduction of 2 million tons of bioplastics