Participating in Cleanup Rally with Okayama Governor, Local Residents [2022/04/19]
The author (left) and Okayama Governor Ryuta Ibaragi collecting trash on March 23, 2022, as part of the “Setouchi Oceans X” project launched by The Nippon Foundation and four prefectures that encircle the Seto Inland Sea in western Japan aimed at achieving “zero marine waste.”
I have lived by the conviction that my “battlefield” is where the problems lie as that is where solutions can be found. I can never solve a problem by sitting in a comfortable air-conditioned office reading reports from my staff.
With that in mind, I took a 6 a.m. Shinkansen bullet train from Tokyo Station on March 23, arriving in Okayama in western Japan after a 3-hour-and-9-minute journey. I then joined Governor Ryuta Ibaragi of Okayama Prefecture and about 100 local volunteers and residents, including some eye-catching cosplayers committed to cleaning the oceans, for a rally to collect trash on a small island near the Sasagase River estuary.
I was shocked by the large amount of plastic and other waste washed up on the riverbank in an area that is hard for local residents to access.
The event was part of “Setouchi Oceans X,” a five-year project launched in December 2020 by The Nippon Foundation together with Okayama and three other prefectures that encircle the Seto Inland Sea aimed at achieving “zero marine waste.”
Governor Ibaragi told the participants: “No resident in the prefecture wants to see this awful pile of garbage. Let’s make it a rule not to dump trash and collect it if we find it.”
I followed up with an appeal of my own: “If each one of us stops dumping trash, we can make the Seto Inland Sea a model for ocean cleanup campaigns in the rest of the world. Dreaming of that day, let’s do everything we can.”
At the event, the participants cleaned up some 1,500 square meters of riverbank and collected about 10 tons of trash.
According to the foundation’s estimate, 4,500 tons of waste end up in the semi-enclosed Seto Inland Sea annually, of which only 1,400 tons are currently being collected. The waste accumulated on the seabed is threatening the health of crustaceans, fish, seabirds, and many other ocean species.
The Setouchi Oceans X project aims to slash the amount of marine debris in the sea to “infinitely close to zero” by reducing trash inflow by some 70% and increasing trash collection by a little over 10% over the next five years.
Inland seas such as the Seto Inland Sea typically have a relatively small inflow of marine litter from outside oceans. If we go all out in trying to reduce marine litter to almost zero in the Inland Sea, we will be able to see what we want to achieve−“zero marine waste.” The foundation will cover the cost of the project, totaling 1.5 billion yen (about $11.9 million).
It is estimated that most of the marine plastic waste comes from land-based sources and that almost all of it is carried to the ocean by rivers.
We will keep appealing to people not to dump garbage, while analyzing the results of the day’s cleanup drive to explore ways to effectively collect garbage washed up on shore to reduce trash inflows into the ocean.
Speaking at the start of the rally to collect trash on a small island near the Sasagase River estuary in Okayama on March 23, 2022.
The rally is joined by Governor Ryuta Ibaragi of Okayama Prefecture and about 100 local volunteers and residents, including some cosplayers.
I tell the participants: “If each one of us stops dumping garbage, we can make the Seto Inland Sea a model for cleanup campaigns in the rest of the world.”
A large quantity of plastic bottles and other waste seen washed up on the shore of a small island near the mouth of the Sasagase River in Okayama.
Participants collect about 10 tons of trash during the rally.
The author (far right) with Okayama Governor Ryuta Ibaragi speaking to the media.