The Environment Ministry said Wednesday it plans to urge companies to reduce the use of microplastics, amid heightened global concern over marine pollution.
Under its updated policy that the ministry plans to compile by year-end, companies would be asked to curb the use of microbeads used in facewash and toothpaste. Restaurants and shops would also be asked to refrain from using plastic bags and straws.
("Microplastics" or tiny plastic beads collected by Hideshige Takada, a professor at the Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology, from Tokyo Bay in 2013 )
The ministry unveiled the draft of the revised policy at a meeting of a panel of experts on Wednesday, with one of the members emphasizing the difficulty of tackling the waste after it ends up in the ocean.
"It's almost impossible to retrieve microplastics from the ocean," the member said.
The draft also called on fishermen to ensure they do not abandon plastic fishing gear in the sea.
Countries are grappling with increasing amounts of plastic waste that degrades into small pieces when exposed to ultraviolet light and abrasion. Pieces measuring less than five millimeters in length are called microplastics.
As the impact of such plastic waste on the marine ecosystem has yet to be fully determined, the Japanese government plans to carry out research on the issue, according to the draft.
The basic policy lays out the roles of the government and local municipalities in dealing with waste drifting ashore as well as measures to curb waste generation together with the private sector.
The existing policy, approved by the Cabinet in 2010, made no reference to microplastics countermeasures. The Environment Ministry has decided to include the issue in the upcoming revision amid growing awareness of the issue.