President’s Message

Tackling Plastic Issues

In November (2019), the 8th Chemical Sciences and Society Summit (CS3) meeting was held in London, just before the outbreak of COVID-19 started. I had the great opportunity to participate in the 8th CS3 and share our perspectives as one of the panelists. The CS3 brings together leading experts to discuss how chemical science can help address some of the most difficult challenges facing our world. Previous CS3 meetings have tackled a variety of topics such as water resources, human health, and sustainability.

At the 8th CS3 meeting, scientists from four participating countries (the UK, Germany, China, and Japan) gathered to focus and discuss four topics related to “sustainable plastics”: 1) their impact on the environment, 2) new sustainable plastics, 3) the recyclability of plastics, and 4) the degradation of plastics. This was a symbolic meeting in which the chemical societies of each country began to seriously confront the plastic life cycle.

In the same way that plastics are used in many different ways, it is also clear that a combination of materials will be needed to accommodate myriad applications. At the same time, this means that there is no single solution suitable for every scenario, region, or product. Different countries have already adopted a wide range of waste management practices, with varying degrees of environmental impact. As such, sustainable options in a particular location or region are not necessarily global solutions that fit all regions.

One of the options may be the use of sustainable polymer based products the development of polymers that are fully constructed from renewable, biologically-derived source chemicals. This development also includes the construction of raw materials used in the production of polymers from CO2 as carbon neutrals and bio-waste.

Another option may be the application of durable or long-lasting polymer synthesis that can be reused multiple times for efficient recycling. Thus, other scenarios require the design of polymers that incorporate special chemical and physical capabilities to make them “degradable on demand.”

We, Japan Society of Material Cycles and Waste Management (JSMCWM), recognize that building a wise approach to plastics requires cooperation between all disciplines, businesses, policies, and human behavior. Technology alone cannot solve all problems. Providing infrastructure and ecosystems for the future of sustainable plastics requires parallel advances in waste management, regulation, economics, and behavior.

We have a philosophy that plastics must not be intentionally released or dumped into the environment, which is essential for the technological advancement of efficient closed-loop waste management systems and the solution of plastic problems. Responding to technical challenges requires close collaboration with a variety of other technical and industrial disciplines and should be done in parallel with a wider range of considerations.
Waste research on COVID-19 shows that major shift in the life cycle has begun and the amount of waste is increasing. At present, we are at a major turning point to seriously address not only the problem of marine debris but also the problem of COVID-19 plastic waste through plastic waste and climate change countermeasures. As the life cycle changes drastically, it is necessary to consider how to relate to plastics from a global perspective through the carbon cycle.

Toshiaki Yoshioka, President,
Japan Society of Material Cycles and Waste Management

back to pagetop