Millions of tons of debris that washed into the Pacific Ocean after the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami last year are drifting ever closer to North America or turning up on its shores.

Japan cannot turn a blind eye to this problem simply because it was caused by a natural disaster.

According to the Ministry of Environment, the amount of debris carried away to sea is estimated to be around 5 million tons. It is thought that 70 percent of the debris sank along Japan’s coastline, but the remaining 30 percent is adrift and floating eastward on currents that run north of the Hawaiian islands.

There have been several heart-warming stories, such as that of the soccer ball discovered on the Alaskan coast being returned to its owner, a high school student in Iwate Prefecture.

The problem is not so much about those items but more about environmentally damaging objects and substances such as plastics, oil cans and urethane washing up.

The matter of floating ocean rubbish was already a growing problem even before the March 11, 2011, earthquake.

Residents of coastal areas of Japan have long been troubled by fishing nets and other waste from China and South Korea washing up on their shores.

Several spots in the Pacific are vast garbage dumps created by the churning tide.

People need to cooperate to do something about this, together with solving the matter of the tsunami debris, in order to bequeath to future generations the blessings of the sea.

Editorial by The Asahi Shimbun, Tokyo


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