Waste nationalism: A gender analysis of the consumption and recycling of plastics in Japan

Abstract: Japan has recently come under increased pressure to develop domestic policies for plastic waste management. The government policies on plastic resource circulation have largely focused on innovation in environmental infrastructure and the development of industries for resource circulation which will lead to economic growth and the creation of jobs. They simultaneously call for the cooperation of citizens in their recycling efforts and innovations in consumer lifestyles to attain sustainable futures.

However, few studies have focused on the gendered aspects of national plastic waste strategies as they intersect with other factors such as ageing and class. This is a significant lacuna especially in the context of Japan where women, as wives, mothers, daughters(in-laws), breadwinners, professionals and workers are mainly in charge of the consumption and recycling of plastic products. Hence a gender perspective is important for revealing the hidden costs of the national environmental agenda on women. 

Drawing on scholars who conceptualise waste as a social and cultural phenomenon that reflects dominant social values in Japan, I think with the term “waste nationalism” that relies on women’s invisible labour both as workers and carers for the home and the environment for its enactment.


Shiori Shakuto is a Project Assistant Professor at the Tokyo College, The University of Tokyo. Her research addresses gender in contemporary Japan through the lens of mobilities of people and things between Japan and Southeast Asia. She received her PhD in Social and Cultural Anthropology at the ANU and she was a postdoctoral fellow at the Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore.


A recording of this seminar is available here


The ANU Japan Institute Seminar Series is supported by the Australian Government through the Australia-Japan Foundation of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. 


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