Current Environmental Issues in Japan

State of Japan’s Environment at a Glance

A look at the current state of Japan's environment shows that industrial pollution has improved over recent years. However, problems stemming from our business activities and lifestyles are becoming increasingly serious. The modern way of life has given rise to a broad range of environmental problems, such as air pollution in large cities, pollution of waterways by household wastewater, and growing quantities of waste and hazardous chemicals in the environment.

■Global Warming and Personal Lifestyles

In FY 2001, 12.7 percent of Japan’s total carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions were emitted from households. About 60% of this was due to electric power use. This clearly reveals that the use of home electric appliances makes a major contribution to atmospheric carbon dioxide.

■Air and Water Pollution

Levels of such air pollutants as nitrogen oxide and suspended particulate matter (SPM) have shown improvement, but improvement in and around big cities is slow. While levels of heavy metals in water have fallen significantly in recent years, organic water pollution from various sources such as household wastewater has improved only slightly, especially in closed water areas such as lakes, inland seas and inner bays, and in rivers in big cities.

■Waste and Recycling

The total waste (municipal solid waste) generated in Japan in FY 2003 was approximately 51.61 million tons, an amount that would fill Tokyo Dome (volume 1, 240 m3) about 139 times over. This works out to 1.106 kilograms per person every day. This massive amount of waste is giving rise to problems such as a severe shortage of final landfill sites and a rise in the incidence of illegal waste dumping. If these problems are not dealt with, our living environment and industrial activities will be seriously disrupted. For this reason, there is an urgent need to improve waste treatment facilities, for example by developing treatment technology that does not burden the environment and final landfill sites that can coexist harmoniously with surrounding environments. Furthermore, it is essential to take measures to limit the amount of waste generated by society and to promote reuse and recycling of all recyclable resources.

■Environmental Risk Management of Chemicals

At present, tens of thousands of different chemicals are thought to be commercially available in Japan. Many chemicals are known to be carcinogenic or genotoxic. Such chemicals can present a serious risk to human health and ecosystems via various pathways if they are released into the environment.

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