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Plastic waste accounts for over 70% of trash in Japan's largest lake: report

Trash that was collected from the bed of Lake Biwa during a cleanup of Akanoi Bay in Shiga Prefecture in June 2019 is shown in this photo provided by the Shiga Prefectural Government.

OTSU -- While fees for plastic shopping bags have become mandatory across Japan since July 1, a survey conducted by Shiga Prefecture revealed that plastic waste accounts for over 70% of trash found in Lake Biwa in western Japan.

As marine pollution has become a serious issue, the Shiga Prefectural Government hopes that the new implementation of charges for plastic shopping bags will encourage efforts to reduce plastic waste.

The bed of Lake Biwa, Japan's largest freshwater lake, is periodically cleaned in various locations across the prefecture. Akanoi Bay in the city of Moriyama, Shiga Prefecture, is said to be a location where garbage tends to accumulate as eight rivers coming from cultivated field and rice paddy land flow into it. Local residents and others have held cleanup activities in the area since 2018, and around 190 people helped out in June 2019. The Shiga Prefectural Government disclosed a report in February 2020 after examining the collected trash.

Among the 2,231 liters, or 322.17 kilograms of garbage collected from the lake bottom, 1,662 liters, or 170.41 kilograms, was plastic waste, which accounted for over 70% of the total volume. Among the types of plastic waste, plastic shopping bags and other kinds of bags were the largest in volume at 530 liters and weighing 74.43 kilograms.

Such plastic bags were apparently found piled up on top of each other. A bag containing bread with a 1990 expiration date was also retrieved, and it was found that plastic bags had not decomposed for long periods. Many of these plastic bags were seemingly dumped in the waterway. The Shiga Prefectural Government's Lake Biwa Conservation and Restoration Division, which issued the report, commented, "We can expect that the situation will be improved through our own efforts if Lake Biwa does not contain trash that has drifted ashore from overseas. Let's work together to reduce plastic shopping bag use among other activities."

The government's Recycling Society Promotion Division, which aims to reduce plastic waste, plans to hold a symposium in October to report the reality of plastic waste as well as show examples of success in reducing it. The division is trying to spread awareness about having less plastic waste, and a representative said, "We would like to induce a movement where each and every prefectural resident can proactively practice waste reduction."

(Japanese original by Kengo Suga, Otsu Bureau)

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