Let’s use questions from the experts to come up with some ideas!
This is a special page for the “Ready to Act?! Plastic Waste” event. During the event, we invite you to think along with us about the problem of plastic waste. At "Ready to Act?! Plastic Waste", we introduce the activities of five people who are tackling this issue at their companies, and each will share a question that they’d like everyone to think about together. We have set up idea boards so that visitors can freely post their ideas. If you don’t have time during your visit, or are unable to visit the museum during the event, you can also post your ideas online, using this page. In addition to sharing these ideas with the five people working hands-on to solve the issue, everyone’s ideas will also be compiled by Miraikan's Science Communicators and disseminated on a regular basis.
Let's think of ways to solve the plastic waste problem together!
How to post your ideas
If you click the “Post an idea” button for one of the questions below, it will take you to a form for posting your idea. (All questions use the same form. Note that we are using a system that was originally meant for event applications, so please keep that in mind if some of the phrases don’t quite match with what you would expect of an idea board.) Select the question for which you’d like to post an idea, enter your idea, then go ahead and send it. You will be asked to input some information about your background, but please refrain from posting information that could be used to identify you individually. After confirming what you’ve entered, click the “Send” button to submit your post to Miraikan.Things to note when posting
Q: What things would you want to keep in circulation? Why?
Approximately 70% of the textile fibers we use are composed of plastics known as synthetic fibers. Many discarded clothes are incinerated or landfilled, but if mechanisms such as recycling are put in place they can be made into resources again.
A clue to solutions
We are undertaking a project known as BRINGTM, in which we collect used and discarded clothes and turn them into resources. Currently we are collecting clothes at more than 4,000 locations nationwide. Of the clothes we gather, those that can still be worn are reused, and those that are no longer wearable are separated according to the material and recycled. We use a special chemical recycling technology we developed ourselves to recycle 100% polyester clothing. We break the polyester down on a molecular level, remove any contaminations and then regenerate polyester using the resulting material. This recycled polyester is almost the same quality as polyester made from petroleum. We use this recycled polyester to make clothes that that will last for a long time.
Our collection boxes have pictures of bees on them. This evokes image of creating new resources by collecting clothes, just as bees gather nectar. We want to make this an opportunity for people to consider “the ways we interact with clothes” and “clothes’ (resources’) lifecycle,” through a mechanism in which “clothes are collected and recycled, and return as new clothes again.”
Q: What kind of things would you (not) like to buy in a package-free shop?
Products come with a large amount of plastic containers or packaging. It is possible to realize a lifestyle that reduces plastic waste by changing how we sell things and how we buy them.
A clue to solutions
We run a package-free shop in Mitaka City, Tokyo where consumers can buy local food ingredients and everyday goods, in the quantities they actually need. At mainstream supermarkets, rice is sold in fixed weights such as 5 kilograms or 10 kilograms, wrapped in plastic or other material. At our store, we sell rice by having our customers bring along their own containers to fill them with only the amount of rice they want. We also recommend package-free shops to, for example, people who live alone and cannot use up a whole bottle of soy sauce. We aim to be a store that is kind to both people and the environment, by reducing not only plastic waste, but also waste of food and money.
In addition to rice and seasonings, the store also handles a variety of ingredients, including dry goods and spices. When we explain to customers about the products and how to weigh them to determine the price, it often turns into a lively conversation. We explain how we choose the foods and ingredients, and talk about how it is indeed more convenient to use plastics, at times. It is our hope that through those conversations, we can search for a new lifestyle together.
Q: What do you think can be done to collect lots of things that tend to be thrown away?
You can reduce plastic waste by using refill packs, but not to zero. Reducing waste further requires development of new technologies and new mechanisms.
A clue to solutions
We are a chemical company that makes detergents, shampoos and similar products. We have reduced a lot of plastic waste by selling refill packs that consume fewer materials compared, to bottles, so customers can just refill bottles they already have. Currently, we are studying whether it is possible to recycle these refill packs. Refill packs can also be made into raw material for plastics – known as pellets – by washing them and finely breaking them down, then melting and solidifying them. If the resulting material is melted once again and thinly stretched out, it can be made into the new refill packs.
However, there are also challenges. Refill packs are made by combining various types of plastics to make them resistant to moisture, light, and other factors. Refill packs that have been remade by melting and then solidifying all these plastics together end up providing reduced performance. Additionally, because the original colors are blended together during the melting phase the recycled packs end up taking up an overall greenish color. And the problems are not just technical – will it be an issue to convince customers to separate their refill packs for collection as an extra waste stream?
Q: What kind of litter collection would you enjoy?
A large amount of plastic waste remains in the natural environment, including the oceans. It is not enough just to reduce waste – the problem will not end until this waste has also been recovered.
A clue to solutions
We are a company that was set up to attempt to resolve environmental problems with science and technology. Our aim is a world in which more waste is collected from, than leached into nature by 2040. We have created a system that utilizes A.I. to study where waste is ending up and in what quantities, thus making it possible to plan cleanup actions efficiently. We have studied how microplastics are actually leaching into the environment, leading to action to reduce plastic waste by identifying its causes.
Pirika, a litter collection social media platform, was created with the goal of making picking up litter enjoyable. Through a smartphone app, users can post records of the litter they have picked up themselves, or send “thank you” messages to other users. Doing something because it is fun is more likely to engage a larger number of people than doing something just because it should be done. Already, a cumulative total of more than 200 million pieces of litter has been picked up in over 100 countries and regions.
Q: What do you think are things that pose problems if they are not made of plastic? Why?
One problem with plastic waste is that it does not decompose and stays around forever. It may be possible to reduce impacts on living things if biodegradable materials, that can serve as an alternative to plastics, become widely adopted.
A clue to solutions
We have developed a plant-based, biodegradable material that replaces plastics. Like plastics, it is a material whose shape can be changed by applying heat, to make it into various products. “Biodegradable” means that microorganisms in the soil can break down this material to carbon dioxide and water over time, just as wood rots when left in the soil for a long time. Normally, plastics do not biodegrade in the natural world, which is a problem. The biodegradable material that we have created will break down naturally, not only in the soil, but in the sea as well.
My job is to adjust the hardness and other qualities of this material according to the purpose, to make spoons and straws. There are undoubtedly many situations where the global environment could be prioritized by using our biodegradable material, but I think there are also situations where the priority is on ease of use, so other plastics should be used. Good for the environment, or ease of use? We want to consider what should have priority, together with our customers.
Things to note when posting
- ・Please only post things that you have written yourself. Do not copy works of others.
- ・Please refrain from posting content that is unrelated to this event/exhibition.
- ・Posted opinions and ideas may be communicated to a wide audience via the Science Communicators’ Blog and other Miraikan media.
- ・You are asked to input some information about your background, but please refrain from posting information that could be used to identify you individually.
- ・You can only post one idea at once. If you would like to post multiple ideas, please fill out the form once for each idea. We apologize for the inconvenience.
- ・If the content of a response includes copyrighted material, that copyright shall transfer to Miraikan. In addition, secondary works may be created based on the content of responses (the copyrights of secondary works shall also belong to Miraikan).