Why does Japan burn plastic?

Kamikatsu recycling

At a recycling plant on the outskirts of Tokyo, Japan, workers wearing face masks, wade through an endless stream of plastic trash, fueled by the national obsession with pristine packaging, and famously stringent rules that ensure much of this waste is recovered and reused.Every day some 10 tons of recyclable plastics arrive for processing at the Ichikawa Kankyo Engineering facility, where workers hover over conveyor belts to remove any stray or contaminating items. The plastic is compressed into huge bales, which are moved by forklift between very large hangars for storage.Critics charge that Japanese consumers and retailers use too much plastic, as the craze for elaborate packaging results in almost all products being offered with wrappers, even individual pieces of fruit. In the face of this, there is no national legislation banning single-use plastics, and penalties or disincentives to use plastic bags are rare.

Recycling in Japan

china and indonesia top the litter tallyMore plastic in the ocean comes from China and Indonesia than from anywhere else – together, they account for one-third of plastic pollution. In fact, 80 percent of plastic pollution comes from just 20 countries, including the United States.

POLLUTION IS ON TREND (LITERALLY)Every time you use your clothes washer, more than 700,000 synthetic microfibers are washed into our waterways. Unlike natural materials such as cotton or wool, these plasticized fibers do not decompose. One study showed that synthetic microfibers make up to 85 percent of all beach litter.

most ocean trash lies on the bottomAs nasty as ocean pollution is, what we can’t see may be worse: 70 percent of ocean trash sinks to the seafloor, which means we are unlikely to be able to clean it up.

OCEANS ARE LOSING MUSSEL MASSOne of the effects of greenhouse emissions is increased ocean acidification, which makes it harder for species such as mussels, clams and oysters to form shells, decreasing their chances of survival, disrupting the food chain and affecting the multi-billion dollar shellfish industry.


Kamikatsu residents reuse organic waste as compost in their gardens or fields. They thoroughly wash glass, plastic or tin cans, disassemble and fold cardboard, and bring it all themselves to the recycling point in the center of the village. There the waste is separated into 34 different categories and an Exchange Center has been set up where local families can barter items that will not be used by others and which could be of great use to them.

The new businesses in the village are already zero waste and eliminate disposable products. This is the case of Cafe Polestar, which does not use disposable napkins, nor does it give the bill in paper unless the customer asks for it. In addition, employees shop with reusable bags from local producers, always taking into account seasonal ingredients.

Recycling in tokyo

There is no garbage collection in the Japanese town of Kamikatsu. Its 1,500 inhabitants move to the landfill to patiently sort their garbage into 45 categories. The ultimate goal is to recycle everything.

Some items require dismantling. In one corner, a man uses a hammer to remove metal parts from the shelves he brought in. In another, sorting center workers cut a long rubber hose into pieces to keep it in one of the boxes. The site has compressors for cans and plastics.

If Japan produces less waste per capita than most developed countries, it leads in plastic waste per capita, just behind the United States. Until recently, the archipelago exported some of it, especially to China, but Beijing no longer wants Japanese plastic, and it is piling up.

“Our way of life depends on plastic,” he noted. “Consumers can reduce waste to some extent, but we will always have some as long as manufacturers produce plastic objects.”