June 12, 2020

Japan Begins Setting Policies on Measures Against Plastics

There are expanding business opportunities associated with developing new materials and technologies in the move away from plastics.

It’s well known that plastics are being dumped illegally in Southeast Asia and elsewhere, as well as impacting marine ecosystems. The weight of plastic trash already in the sea is estimated at 150 million tons. It’s a grave problem, ranking alongside climate change. Plastics are used for everything from shopping bags to PET bottles, cars, and construction materials, because they are light, tough, and easy to shape. A high proportion is used for single-use items. The policy of the Japanese government is to ask companies to disclose information about their use of plastics, which are becoming a new environmental problem. Within this year, the government will present companies with guidelines containing all the information items which they should disclose, such as their introduction of plant-derived and other materials, and their recycling rates. New business opportunities associated with developing new materials and technologies in the move away from plastics are attracting increasing attention.

The new guidelines are to include targets for quantities of waste and their reduction, and disclosure of information such as the state of introduction of materials with low environmental load. The aim is to encourage disclosure by companies and spur their moves towards attaining goals. On the other hand, chemicals manufacturers which handle raw materials, and food companies that use large amounts of plastics in their products, are likely to be impacted. The Ministry of the Environment and other agencies released the “Plastic Resources Recycling Strategy” in May 2019, which set the target of 25% reduction in single-use materials by 2030. It set the goal of increasing domestic use of bio materials to 2 million tons by that year. The following companies have already started disclosing information voluntarily, and taking action

Actions on plastics countermeasures by Japanese companies
Company NameActions
ToyotaPromoting the use of recycled materials through technology development, to encourage increased supply volume by 2025.
PanasonicUse at least 42,000 tons of recycled plastics in FY2021 (total over 2019-2021)
KaoFivefold increase in use of recycled plastics, and a threefold increase in use of plant-derived plastics, by 2025
Suntory GroupSwitch 100% of the Group’s use of PET bottle material worldwide to recycled and plant-derived materials by 2030
Seven and i HoldingsCut the use of plastic shopping bags to zero by 2030, and switch to paper and other sustainable natural materials

Source: Ministry of the Environment documents