During the G20 Summit in Osaka this summer, a number of global challenges were addressed, among them the growing amount of plastic debris. During the G20, the “Osaka Blue Ocean Vision” was shared, with its aim to reduce pollution of marine plastic litter in the sea to zero by 2050.
The Japanese government has decided to take further responsibility for the realization of this vision. During the summit, Prime Minister Abe announced that Japan would launch the “MARINE Initiative” which is representing the ambition for Japan to support developing countries’ efforts, but also their capacity, of building and developing infrastructure in the area of waste management.
The MARINE Initiative has four focus areas that will be promoted to combat marine plastic litter globally. The focus areas are: Management of waste, Recovery of marine life, Innovation, and Empowerment.
The presented actions for the MARINE initiative are in three main areas:
1. International Cooperation, including bilateral Official Development Assistance and assistance through international organizations
Through this part, the aim is to provide developing countries with assistance to develop waste related legal regulations, waste sorting system and to promote waste management and the 3R (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle). They also want to assist these countries with education and training in waste management, in formulating national action plans concerning marine litter, and better introduction on environmental infrastructure, e.g. waste-to-energy plants and reliable recycling facilities
2. International Operations by Japanese Companies, NGOs, and Local Governments
An increased promotion of collaboration between various parties, such as Japanese companies, NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations) and local governments, to improve the export of infrastructure, innovations and technologies that can make an impact in reducing the amount of plastic or contribute with alternatives to plastic and its recycling methods today. Another aim is to increase the cooperation with already existing industries, especially those within plastic production.
3. Dissemination and Sharing of Best Practices
Improve the spreading of Japanese practices, public and private, regarding waste management, dealing with marine litter and relevant innovations through international conferences and initiatives.
The plastic-free ocean initiative is also a part in Japan’s formulation of a Bio-economy Strategy 2019. The strategy focuses on the shift to bio-based industries and advancement within synthetic biology. It has been further discussed during this summer with the aim to “Realize advanced Bio-economy society by 2030”. The strategy work was already initiated eleven years ago and is now aimed to promote further involvement of industry-public-academia cooperation, and the strategy has set a vision towards the market segments, and creation of a roadmap.
Identified key points in the strategy include the need to initiate societal visions to improve the market segment, to create a digital platform that can gather information involving data from all bio-related fields and biotechnology, to create a site for an international bio-community to increase the attraction of scientists and investors, and to strengthen the strategic function to better deal with new requests and follow-ups.
The four so-called societal visions that the strategy rests on are greater circularity in the society and industry; satisfying diversified need by sustainable primary production; bio-based feed stock and an overall sustainable production; and healthy longevity and social participation through health and medical care. The target of the market segments are:
- High performance biomaterials (lightweight, durable, safe)
- Bioplastics (replacement of commodity plastic)
- Sustainable primary production system
- Organic waste and organic wastewater treatment
- Healthcare for improvement of lifestyle, functional foods and digital health
- Biopharmaceuticals, regenerative medicine, cell therapy and gene therapy (related industries)
- Biofoundry (engineered biology, microbes and fermentation for food production and bio-based products)
- Biological analysis, measurement and experimental systems (including robotics)
- Large wooden architecture and smart forestry (capturing CO2)
The bio-economy and plastic-free ocean initiatives are part of Japan’s growing ambitions towards the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and to aim at solving societal challenges; moreover, they constitute an interesting base for research and innovation collaboration between Sweden and Japan, which may involve academia as well as industry.