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Few places have turned their relationship to materials into an art form like Japan - rice, paper, ceramics, lacquer, and wood are amongst the materials that have coexisted in Japan for generations, giving rise to a culture deeply influenced by nature, community, and spiritual practices. Yet, one material has emerged as a bigger threat than perhaps any other before it: Plastic.

As the sun rises over Tokyo's horizon, we see this is a city scattered with waste incinerators, though its busy inhabitants scurry by, barely noticing the facilities that surround them that are hungry for their waste. An animated sequence reveals a striking truth: everything we buy is wrapped in plastic, from single strawberries to individual cookies, and an insatiable thirst for PET bottles. Japan is the world’s second-largest generator of single-use plastic waste, has the most microplastic-polluted oceans, and is the world’s leader in burning garbage. Trapped in a system that requires the continuation of mass waste generation to justify operating over 1,000 incinerators, we dig deep into Asia’s greatest, hidden greenwashing scandal. 

Our journey across Japan is an opportunity to listen to all major stakeholders connected to the issue of plastic; from garbage truck drivers-turned-activists Oikawa and Sato, to operator at one of the world’s biggest incinerators, Mikiharu Mishima, to one of Asia’s most prominent Zero Waste activists Akira Sakano; each individual’s story leads us one step closer to finding real answers to the plastic problem.

Having witnessed how our everyday trash travels through the hands of waste collectors, to the nation’s largest incinerator, and dump sites where trash creates new land in the ocean— we then  travel all the way to the village of Kamikatsu, deep in the mountains, where radical, community-led actions have sparked a movement for Zero Waste well beyond the borders of Japan. Kamikatsu has made global headlines for sorting its trash into a staggering 45 categories. Having taken systematic failures into their own hands and have created a new system that values resourcefulness, they say the solution to the global plastic issue is not recycling, incineration, or bioplastics, but a radical rethinking of our society which asks: Why do we even create waste in the first place?

PLASTIC LOVE! does not tell the story of one person or one community, because the plastic issue is neither caused by nor can be solved by one individual. Instead, we connect every stakeholder connected to plastic and uncover greenwashing and systemic failings that have led Japan — and the rest of Asia — to chase after wrong solutions for the past decades. Ultimately, we take inspiration from Japan’s zero waste movement to go on a deep dive into our human psyche; Why is it that we just cannot stop consuming so much? How can a country that on the surface seems so perfectly clean, while being one of the world’s biggest polluters, give us answers that will lead us all out of a plastic-wrapped future? 

Unwrapping Japan’s Toxic Affair With Plastic

Documentary Film
Expected length: 90min
Original Language: Japanese
Subtitles: Japanese, English


MICHINAO SUENAGA— Director of Tsushima CAPPA

President of Zero Waste Academy Kamikatsu

President of Zero Waste Japan

Exec. Vice Director, Environmental Research Institute (ERI)
YUZURU OIKAWA — Zama City, Garbage Truck Driver
TAISUKE SATO — Zama City, Garbage Truck Driver
Co-Founder, JEPLAN

Representative Director, Kyoei Industry

Director, Office of Recycling Promotion
Ministry of the Environment
Marine Scientist

...and many more