Sustainable Tourism in Japan - innovation & inspiration

Children’s Day Beach Clean Prompts Solution Search

Plastic pollution is a worldwide issue that communities around the world are trying to tackle, but the amount of plastic waste on Ganne beach was a shock on Childrens’ Day (5/5) which led to a solution search. Here are some low-cost solutions which could be applied to destinations across Japan which would improve the appeal of the location to new residents and visitors.

At the end of the new Reiwa era Golden-Week holiday, I collaborated with a local artist, Mendel Jonkers, to camp and clean at a local beach on Etajima island where he lived for over a year. Mendel knows the area well and tried to clean the beach on his own most days while he lived there.

In the video, you can see how frustrated and overwhelmed I was feeling, but after a beer and a good rest, my frustration led to a search for strategies and solutions across the globe to this plastic crisis- and I found 3 great ideas!!

1) Use NETS to catch plastic pollution
Plastic pollution often flows down rivers and storm drains before it gets to the ocean, so catching it along the way is a ‘nobrainer.’

According to Inhabitat:

In Spring 2018, the City of Kwinana collaborated with supplier Ecosol to install two drainage nets in the Henley Reserve. The netting was simply attached to concrete drain pipes, and these nets have since collected 370 kg (about 816 lb) of waste, including plastic food wrappers and bottles.

The system, including manufacturing, installation and additional labor, cost the municipality about $20,000 — prior to the nets, city workers would collect debris in the water by hand. The new system is picked up and cleaned out using cranes when the nets become full of waste. Then, the waste is sorted in a designated facility. Here, green waste is transformed into mulch, and other materials are separated into recyclable/non-recyclable.

The City of Kwinana has considered the drainage nets a huge success, with plans to install three more nets in the nature reserve area over the next two years.

According to the City of Kwinana website, the news of their net strategy has ‘gone viral’ as communities across the world struggling with plastic pollution are looking for solutions. In terms of sustainable tourism, this has put the town of Kwinana on the map- fantastic branding and appeal to visitors as a high-quality destination that cares about the plastic pollution crisis. The news of their net strategy was posted on their facebook page and reached “over 2.5 million people all over the world in 48 hours.” The mayor of the town explains the strategy in this video as “some of the best solutions are the simplest!”.

A look at the city’s website and facebook page shows that the city highly values transparency and works hard to build social equity as well as environmental activism and understanding. To get the younger generation engaged in the plastic crisis, they are launching an upcycling event for kids called the “Young Reinventor of the Year- Plastic Pirates”.

2) Clean-ups as a daily habit
A Londoner has started a movement called the Thames Project. Dhruv Boruah moved on from a career as a lawyer and now he has started a movement by ‘cycling’ on a floating bicycle down the polluted Thames river each day collecting plastic trash.

Hiroshima, Kyoto, Kobe, Osaka, Tokyo, Fukuoka are among many cities across Japan that could implement this low-cost initiative as they have rivers cutting through the city centers. Creating regular river clean-ups where volunteers on floating devices- SUP’s, kayaks, canoes and other eco-tourism friendly vehicles could make a dent in the plastic pollution problem, raise awareness and improve a city’s branding at the same time.

3) Clean-ups Integrated into Event management
Hiroshima’s flower festival asks children to become Omotenashi ambassadors and seek out litter at the event, fill up a bag and bring it back for a prize. This concept could be applied to all outdoor events and festivals.

If you like jogging, why not join the PLOGGING movement of activist athletes who pick up trash while exercising?

The Melbourne Ploggers and Plastic Rubbish Collectors are combining exercise, getting back into shape, and enjoying the great outdoors with trash collecting- so simple, yet so inspiring!

It’s so important not to give up hope quite yet as there are so many active people around the world working hard to fight this problem.

Let’s join the plastic clean-up movement in Japan too- are you with me?!

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