At this year’s Fujisawa Campus annual festival at Japan’s prestigious Keio University, a large number of the over 10,000 mostly young visitors were drawn to a peculiar display booth.
The attraction was understandable—visitors to the booth, mostly students from Keio and other universities as well as pre-university students and members of the public, were encouraged to change their lifestyles and reduce dependence on plastics. Reusable bags, drinking straws and bottles were displayed at the booth along with material about the UN Environment Regional Seas Programme.
“I didn’t know that it takes only such simple action in our daily lives to protect our environment,” said a surprised university graduate student after studying the displays at the booth.
“It is good for us to start to learn to change our behaviour while still at university,” said a young woman. “This will give us a stronger sense of commitment and shared values later in life to protect our environment.”
‘Beat Plastic Pollution’ banners and environment-friendly substitutes for plastics were displayed. The booth was set up by the civil society group UMINARI to launch the Beat Plastic Pollution campaign during the 13 October University festival held in Fujisawa—a city on Japan’s mid-western Pacific Ocean coast. UMINARI, coordinator of the network, had teamed with the UN Environment Northwest Pacific Action Plan (NOWPAP), a Regional Seas Programme headquartered in Toyama, Japan, for its anti-plastic campaign designed for campuses.
The campaign was launched on behalf of Onewave network, a nationwide platform that brings together non-profit, civil society and private sector groups in Japan to promote public awareness of working together to protect the shared global environment.
Young and old, everyone was encouraged to act. “I am glad to see the young learning to take care of the environment and ready to give up some conveniences,” said a woman visitor in her late sixties. Many students visiting the booth made a formal pledge to switch to using sustainable alternatives to plastics on campus.
“We are very encouraged by the enthusiasm shown by students and their readiness to stop using plastics. Our goal was to get students involved, change their minds and act. We can now continue the Plastic-Free Campus campaign both online and offline for lasting and widespread impact,” said Takanobu Date, Chief Executive Officer of UMINARI and Coordinator of Onewave network.
“According to estimates by UMINARI, every second, about 1,000 single-use plastic bags are used in Japan. While the country is well known for its modern and efficient waste management practices, the significance of reducing single-use plastics is no less important here than in other parts of the world,” said Lev Neretin, Coordinator of the Northwest Pacific Action Plan of UN Environment. “We are delighted to support the first public initiative of this very promising youth movement,” he added.
The campaign also resulted in some businesses and research organizations agreeing to provide support to Onewave network in making Japanese campuses plastic-free.