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Plastic waste in Japan - statistics & facts

Since plastics are lightweight and inexpensive to produce, they are widely used, ranging from materials for the manufacturing industry to textiles, medical equipment, and beverage and food containers. In Japan, the increasing consumption of plastic products leads to huge amounts of plastic waste. In recent years, the per capita generation of plastic waste in Japan stood at around 37 kilograms, making it one of the largest countries to generate plastic waste.
As a result, plastic waste pollution has become a major environmental issue. Microplastic pollution poses a threat both to the health of animals and humans, as the tiny pieces of degraded plastic absorb harmful chemicals that end up in the food chain.

 Plastic waste generation 

In recent years, Japan was one of the largest producers of plastic products. Plastic films and sheets, as well as single-use plastic products such as plastic containers and plastic plates, represented some of the leading plastic products that were manufactured in Japan.
Plastic packaging is commonly used for food and beverage containers as it holds the image of being safe and hygienic among Japanese citizens. Furthermore, the popularity of takeaway food boxes from supermarkets, as well as vending machines with beverages in PET bottles, contribute to the generation of plastic waste. Consequently, plastic packaging made up the majority of packaging household waste.

 How does Japan deal with plastic waste? 

Historically, Japan exported huge amounts of plastic waste, mainly to other Asian countries. But the exports decreased significantly after 2017, when China banned plastic waste imports, forcing the island nation to find more sustainable solutions to reduce and manage its plastic waste.
Increasing to 85 percent, the recycling rate of plastic waste was much higher than the recycling rate of regular waste in Japan, which remained low at around 20 percent. The recycling rate for PET bottles was even higher, reaching over 85 percent. However, thermal recycling remained the most common recycling method for plastic waste. With this method, the waste is incinerated to generate energy. Despite the filtering technologies, which avoid incineration plants from releasing large amounts of greenhouse gases, the incineration process produces greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to air pollution and global warming. Only a small amount of plastic waste is reused for its materials, namely material recycling, to manufacture new plastic products.

Measures to reduce plastic waste

As a measure to reduce the generation of plastic waste, the Japanese government prohibited all retail shops from distributing free plastic shopping bags as of July 2020, and there are plans to make the recycling of plastics used at offices or factories mandatory for large companies in 2022. Furthermore, the government promotes the so-called 3R initiative since 2004, which encourages businesses and citizens to focus on the importance of reducing, reusing, and recycling waste.
Some Japanese companies currently work on replacing plastic products with paper products, especially for packaging materials. Although the production cost of paper is usually higher than for plastic, the paper alternatives are more compact and recyclable, posing a more environmentally friendly alternative.

Key figures

The most important key figures provide you with a compact summary of the topic of "Plastic waste in Japan" and take you straight to the corresponding statistics.

Plastic industry

Plastic packaging

Waste management

Interesting statistics

In the following 6 chapters, you will quickly find the 27 most important statistics relating to "Plastic waste in Japan".

Plastic waste in Japan

Dossier on the topic

All important statistics are prepared by our experts – available for direct download as PPT & PDF!
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Plastic waste in Japan - statistics & facts

Since plastics are lightweight and inexpensive to produce, they are widely used, ranging from materials for the manufacturing industry to textiles, medical equipment, and beverage and food containers. In Japan, the increasing consumption of plastic products leads to huge amounts of plastic waste. In recent years, the per capita generation of plastic waste in Japan stood at around 37 kilograms, making it one of the largest countries to generate plastic waste.
As a result, plastic waste pollution has become a major environmental issue. Microplastic pollution poses a threat both to the health of animals and humans, as the tiny pieces of degraded plastic absorb harmful chemicals that end up in the food chain.

 Plastic waste generation 

In recent years, Japan was one of the largest producers of plastic products. Plastic films and sheets, as well as single-use plastic products such as plastic containers and plastic plates, represented some of the leading plastic products that were manufactured in Japan.
Plastic packaging is commonly used for food and beverage containers as it holds the image of being safe and hygienic among Japanese citizens. Furthermore, the popularity of takeaway food boxes from supermarkets, as well as vending machines with beverages in PET bottles, contribute to the generation of plastic waste. Consequently, plastic packaging made up the majority of packaging household waste.

 How does Japan deal with plastic waste? 

Historically, Japan exported huge amounts of plastic waste, mainly to other Asian countries. But the exports decreased significantly after 2017, when China banned plastic waste imports, forcing the island nation to find more sustainable solutions to reduce and manage its plastic waste.
Increasing to 85 percent, the recycling rate of plastic waste was much higher than the recycling rate of regular waste in Japan, which remained low at around 20 percent. The recycling rate for PET bottles was even higher, reaching over 85 percent. However, thermal recycling remained the most common recycling method for plastic waste. With this method, the waste is incinerated to generate energy. Despite the filtering technologies, which avoid incineration plants from releasing large amounts of greenhouse gases, the incineration process produces greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to air pollution and global warming. Only a small amount of plastic waste is reused for its materials, namely material recycling, to manufacture new plastic products.

Measures to reduce plastic waste

As a measure to reduce the generation of plastic waste, the Japanese government prohibited all retail shops from distributing free plastic shopping bags as of July 2020, and there are plans to make the recycling of plastics used at offices or factories mandatory for large companies in 2022. Furthermore, the government promotes the so-called 3R initiative since 2004, which encourages businesses and citizens to focus on the importance of reducing, reusing, and recycling waste.
Some Japanese companies currently work on replacing plastic products with paper products, especially for packaging materials. Although the production cost of paper is usually higher than for plastic, the paper alternatives are more compact and recyclable, posing a more environmentally friendly alternative.

Interesting statistics

In the following 6 chapters, you will quickly find the 27 most important statistics relating to "Plastic waste in Japan".

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