We hope you are staying safe during these testing times. Travel to Japan is not possible for the time being as Japan has shut its borders in order to prevent more infections of COVID19.
On the 26th of May, KansaiLocal.com, along with some Local fishermen and an NPO, organised a volunteer trash pick up.
Awaji Island is a large island between the Osaka Bay and the larger island of Tokushima in the neighbouring area.
It started a few years ago when some locals put their heads together, lead by one Local fisherman who started to notice his fish were full of plastic, and certain areas of the harbour and island that he was fishing were clogged up with plastic.
There is an estimated 150 million metric tons of plastic in our oceans at this very moment, to which every year, another 8 MILLION metric tons finds its way into our oceans. The figures are simply staggering. The scale of this problem is just incomprehensible. To give you a perspective: a mini cooper hatchback weighs in at just over a ton. Imagine how much a ton of plastic is. Then imagine this enormous mass of plastic, times it by 8 million, and thats how much plastic enters the ocean every year. The realise this is not imagination and also that his figure is increasing.
The problem with Japan is, among other things, they are extremely set in their ways. Tradition and conformity are interwoven into society and day to day living. Everything from how you dress as a salaryman/women, the way you must speak to you don’t know and elders, general etiquette and even dating and relationships which is very formal and somewhat impersonal. It also includes things like food hygiene. While this is a good thing, because all food in Japan is incredibly hygienic and there are hardly ever outbreaks of sickness and food poisoning, it does mean that foods are and have always been wrapped up with many many layers of plastic packaging. It’s actually one of the biggest things people comment on when they travel Japan - the amount of single-use plastics that are in use.
The Japanese government are so slow to a. Catch up with world issues and b. Implement new laws. This is the first problem, the second is that a lot of young Japanese people, especially in more rural and local areas, are incredibly poorly educated about climate change. Their attitude on the environment isn't so good. I say this because when I do my epic ‘Edventure’ tours (did you see what I did there? hehe) I find SO much litter in the really remote mountainous areas of Kyoto and Yoshino (my home town). Now I know this is caused by the locals because it’s far from where tourists know of / can access. Fly tipping is also a big issue in Japan.
The other issue is that no one is really aware of where the recycled stuff goes. Japan is good at separating trash. At home, and in all other Japanese households, we have several bis where stuff needs to be separated and recycled. But a lot of the time the recycling trash is shipped off to China and Malaysia (and other Asian countries), where it then ends up in the Ocean.
So, back to the volunteer trash pick up in Awaji. We were a group of around 50 people and in 3 hours on a swelteringly hot May Sunday, we picked up over 150kg of trash on one small random beech, on one random island in Japan. And I estimated that we probably managed picked up only 50% of the trash present on that beach. This really really affected me. I didn't quite realise how bad the conditions of our oceans, not just in Japan, are. Seeing it up close and in person was absolutely shocking. Now the best thing we all can do is, and I know this is hard especially in Japan, is to consume fewer products that are wrapped up in plastic, and recycle as much as possible. Not only because obviously it's crap for the environment but its also not good for your body. Microplastics end up in your body and cause all sorts of hormonal problems and cancer.
getting into the nooks and crannies. These are the places the trash gets trapped as it's washed in from the sea.