Plastic Nations: Transnational Networks of Plastic Waste Disposal from Japan to Malaysia

Dr Shiori Shakuto1

1National University Of Singapore, Singapore, Singapore

Japan is one of the largest producers of plastic waste in industralised countries. It used to export a majority of its waste to China until China banned the import of plastic waste in 2018. Since then, Japan has been exporting its plastic waste to Southeast Asian countries, especially to Malaysia. This research tries to explore transnational frameworks through which to understand an unequal distribution of wealth and waste. The research complements the existing body of work on waste by moving the field of analysis from the inherited territorial units of nationhood to transnational networks. The transnational approach to the environmental question is especially pertinent when the effects of climate change is unevenly distributed across the world. The reconceptualisation of plastic waste as a transnational problem illuminates the cracks in the global political economy of plastic waste disposal chains. I conduct “multi-sited ethnography” that will involve participant observations and interviews with various social groups in Japan and Malaysia, from producers and consumers of plastic products to workers at recycling facilities to policy makers. I will show how transnational networks of plastic disposal come to ascribe values to waste, opening the door to current contests about the dilemmas of environment-society relations.


Shiori Shakuto is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore. She obtained her PhD in Anthropology from the ANU. Her research interests lie in the intersection across gender, environment and migration, with a focus on the movement of people and things from Japan to Malaysia.


The Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) is the peak body of university experts and educators on Asia in Australia. Established in 1976, we promote and support the study of Asia in Australian universities and knowledge of Asia among the broader community. Our membership is drawn mainly from academics and students, but also includes industry and government Asia experts. We take a strong interest in promoting knowledge about Asia in schools and in contributing to state and Commonwealth government policies related to Asia. We provide informed comment on Asia to a broad public through our bulletin, Asian Currents, and specialist research articles in our journal, Asian Studies Review. Four book series published under our auspices cover Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Asia and Women in Asia.

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