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Professor crusades against trash on Okinawa beaches

Date Posted: 2004-06-10

A 55-year-old university professor is waging a campaign against litter strewn across the beaches of Okinawa’s islands.

Haruyuki Yamaguchi is a professor at Japan’s Self Defense University. He is studying the trash accumulating and drifting ashore on all of Japan’s islands. His focus is on Iriomote Island. He’s finding tons of garbage trapped and clinging to the mango trees which line the shores. There is polystyrenes, fishing nets, metal drums, empty cans and plastic bags, he says.

“This mangrove forest is the same as a trash box, and it is almost a critical situation because the foam polystyrenes and plastic bags make poisonous chemical matters. And that’s killing all kinds of things like shells, animals, fishes and birds,” says Yamaguchi.

His research is continuing from Nakama River to Yutsun River, Funaura Harbor. He’s found 6,959 empty cans, and those, he notes, were clearly visible and not hidden in the sand.

Yamaguchi says “this trash comes from neighboring countries, too, and not only from Japan residents. Because of the drifting ashore, trashes are winding up in the roots of mango trees, where they cannot get out.” He says there needs to be discussions with neighboring countries about eliminating refuse and litter. “It’s needed we do something quickly,” the professor says.

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