Joint Project by Ministry of the Environment and The Nippon FoundationAddressing increasingly serious problem of ocean debris by demonstrating Japan’s initiatives globally
Minister of the Environment Yoshiaki Harada and The Nippon Foundation Chairman Yohei Sasakawa announced on February 18 the launch of a joint project to address the increasingly serious problem of “ocean debris,” consisting primarily of drifting plastic waste (umigomi in Japanese; umi = ocean, gomi = waste, trash). The project is intended to demonstrate Japan’s initiatives as an ocean country to the rest of the world, and will include large-scale beach cleanup activities nationwide during UMIGOMI Zero WEEK, from the informally designated “Zero Litter Day” on May 30 (Gomi Zero no Hi; a play on the Japanese pronunciation of 5-3-0) to World Oceans Day on June 8.
At the 2016 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Mr. Harada sounded the alarm with regard to the problem of marine plastic waste, citing a forecast that at the present rate, by 2050 the total volume (by weight) of plastic waste in the world’s oceans will exceed that of fish. Japan’s Ministry of the Environment also launched a Plastics Smart campaign in October 2018 to reduce unnecessary plastic waste and promote separated trash collection.
At the same time, The Nippon Foundation launched the Umi-to-Nippon Project (The Ocean and Japan Project) in 2016 to address various ocean-related issues, and in November 2018 started the Change for the Blue project to expand and develop new projects involving the private sector, the public sector, and academia. In this way, the Foundation and the government are making reciprocal use of their respective strengths to address the problem of ocean debris and plastic waste. At the press conference, Mr. Harada noted, “Working with The Nippon Foundation, which has a wealth of experience, we hope to demonstrate Japan’s initiatives both within Japan and overseas.” Mr. Sasakawa added, “We agree with the Ministry of the Environment in our desire to create a Japanese model that can be used throughout the world.”
The project will have three core activities: UMIGOMI Zero WEEK; an UMIGOMI Zero AWARD to recognize superior activities that can serve as models for the formulation of ocean waste policies; and an UMIGOMI Zero International Symposium. The target for UMIGOMI Zero WEEK is to have 800,000 people participate each year, with 2.4 million people participating over the next three years, in simultaneous projects nationwide under the banner “Don’t create litter. Don’t throw away litter. Pick up litter.”
A G20 summit will be held this year in Osaka on June 28-29. Prior to the summit, a Ministerial Meeting on Energy Transitions and Global Environment for Sustainable Growth will be held in Nagano Prefecture, with plans to address the issue of plastic ocean debris. The UMIGOMI Zero International Symposium is scheduled to be held in conjunction with this meeting, at the headquarters of The Sasakawa Peace Foundation in Toranomon, Tokyo, in mid-June. The symposium will examine the current situation with regard to marine pollution and introduce activities being carried out to address the problem both in Japan and around the world.
The Nippon Foundation