Climate Education

Japanese schools use cleanups to teach plastic pollution

On September 15, almost 25,000 people gathered near Chiba, Japan, to learn about the dangers of plastic pollution and what to do about it. At the event, people navigated a room filled with pictures and videos, almost as if walking around an art gallery — except they weren’t looking at normal pieces of art. The room displayed images of beaches and ocean wildlife polluted with pieces of trash.

post it notes on board
Attendees wrote their feelings generated by plastic pollution art on notes and placed them around the room. Photo credit: International Circle

After they viewed the displays, attendees wrote their feelings on notes and placed them around the room. One part of the room also displayed a step-by-step guide on how students could start a beach cleanup community at their own school.

This event was put on by International Circle, a community that aims to raise awareness about the issue of plastic pollution and create a cleaner world for future generations. For the past six years, local students in this community have come together to participate in weekly cleanups at Makuhari Beach. After they collect garbage along the shore, participants separate plastics and metals to ensure proper recycling of each material.

According to Meg Tanaka of International Circle, many students in Japan have no experience with cleanups. Many of the younger students involved became both excited and motivated to continue cleaning their environment.

Armed with an understanding of the harm of pollution and ways to make a change, many members of the club will regroup for three more beach cleanups in the next week. This is the first time in Japan that multiple schools will come together for a cleanup. International Circle hopes that events like this will continue and create the first beach cleaning community in Japan.

World Cleanup Day and National Cleanup Day are Saturday, September 21. Initiatives like these are great ways to take action on environmental issues. Beach cleanups are not the only thing you can do to end plastic pollution across the globe, though — check out other ways to get involved through Earth Day Network’s Great Global Cleanup™ and End Plastic Pollution campaigns.