On July 22nd, the Alliance to End Plastic Waste held an international forum in Tokyo in an effort to spread awareness, promote interest and expand the Alliance’s efforts and mission in the region. The two part event, a presentation and panel discussion, was well attended by approximately 450 participants from various industries and geographies. The panel included Ms. Virginie Helias, Chief Sustainability Officer of Procter & Gamble; Mr. Mimpei Ito, Global Environment Department, Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA); Mr. Kongsak Dokbua, Vice President, Plastics Institute of Thailand; and Professor Yasushi Umeda, Sustainability Design Lab, Dept. of Precision Engineering, University of Tokyo. Mr. Hiroki Yokote, Director, Resource Efficiency & Circular Economy, Ministry of Economy, Trade & Industry, was the keynote speaker.
Mr. Hitoshi Ochi, President and CEO of Mitsubishi Chemical Holdings and a member of the Alliance’s Executive Committee, said that he was “very happy to see that so many participants have indicated their interest in this issue” and hopes “that this forum will further increase Japanese public interest in the Alliance’s activities.” He stressed that what makes the Alliance unique is the collective and collaborative work of its nearly 40 members from across the value chain that are united under a shared mission to rid the environment of plastic waste.
Ms. Helias of Procter & Gamble agreed, noting, “We are all united in one fundamental issue – we all agree that plastic doesn’t belong in our oceans or rivers or anywhere in our environment.”
The Alliance was new to most people in the room, so the group spent time explaining its approach to help keep plastic waste out of the environment. Mr. Ito of JICA and Mr. Keiichi Iwata, President of Sumitomo Chemical Company, explained that while education is important and a key component of this effort, technology and infrastructure development are necessary to be successful on a global scale. Most importantly, Mr. Dokbua of the Plastics Institute of Thailand stated that we need to begin seeing plastic waste differently – not as waste, but as money.
To conclude the forum, the panelists reiterated that immediate action is required to solve this problem. In particular, Japan has high expectations for themselves, but also from the rest of the region, to reduce plastic waste in the environment. How Japan decides to respond will have a profound impact on how the movement towards ending plastic waste will play out.