G20 should use global framework for plastic waste reduction in seas

The Yomiuri ShimbunPlastic waste is seriously polluting the seas of the world. It is essential for nations around the world to cooperate in implementing necessary measures.

A ministerial meeting of the Group of 20 major economies on energy transitions and global environment for sustainable growth was held in the town of Karuizawa, Nagano Prefecture, on June 15 and 16, in which G20 members decided to establish a global framework for seeking reductions in the flow of plastic waste into the ocean.

Each G20 member will devise action plans for the collection and proper management of plastic refuse, while also reporting on the progress in its endeavors every year. It is the first time for the G20 to set up a framework for plastic waste reduction.

The amount of plastic waste that has flowed into the seas around the world was estimated at up to 12.75 million tons in 2010. The G20 members account for about half of the total, with 3.53 million tons from China and 1.29 million tons from Indonesia.

It is of great significance that the G20’s latest meeting confronted this issue.

The problem is that the task of reporting the progress in plastic waste reduction efforts is not subject to legally binding action, with each G20 member left to set its target and work out the specifics of its goal. There are differences in the enthusiasm and progress in each nation’s endeavor and one of the factors behind this is that it is difficult to impose uniform restrictions on G20 members.

The European Union and Canada, where good progress has been made in their efforts, have announced plans to ban the use of single-use plastic. In Japan, the free distribution of plastic shopping bags will likely be discontinued.

Increase awareness

In China and Indonesia, their governments are calling for the recycling of plastic. However, there have been no changes in the local practice of discarding garbage in rivers as well as in awareness in this respect.

It is important to effectively utilize the new international framework, thereby ensuring each nation makes steady progress in its reduction efforts.

A G20 meeting in which each member reports the progress in its efforts is also aimed at ensuring they learn about examples of the progressive methods actually adopted through an exchange of pertinent information, thereby heightening their awareness of the need to reduce plastic waste.

The first such meeting will likely be held in Japan by November. The Japanese government should make thought-out preparations for the meeting, with a view to using the meeting as an initial step toward reducing plastic waste.

There is a great deal still unknown about the realities of plastic waste flowing into the seas.

How do harmful chemical substances stick to tiny particles of the plastic waste broken up in the ocean? What kind of influence will be caused to ecological systems if there is an increase in the fish and seabirds that have swallowed them? Collecting samples in various polluted areas and analyzing them will be helpful for grasping the realities.

In the future, the G20 participating nations will also start a study aimed at examining the materials comprising plastic waste in the seas, thereby identifying the routes through which such waste flows into the ocean. The key to this task is promoting cooperation among G20 members.

Japanese universities and other institutions have achieved good results in their efforts to study marine pollution and the toxicity of chemical substances. It is hoped that they will spearhead efforts to scientifically uncover the truth about plastic waste in the seas.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 23, 2019)Speech


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