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Plastic in Japan | Banning Free Plastic Bags and Packaging Across the Nation


Plastic Packaging

Plastic bags are a staple of life now. Need to carry your groceries? Put them in a plastic bag. Ordering some takeout? Your food’s probably going to come in a plastic bag. According to the latest statistics, approximately 500 billion to 1 trillion plastic bags are used every day. In Japan, the rate of plastic consumption is equally staggering. Research shows that every individual in Japan uses an estimated 300 or 400 plastic bags every year. This accounts for over 40 billion for the entire country. Owing to this fact, Japan is the second country in the world, after the United States, in terms of the production of plastic packaging waste per capita. In fact, the nation generates 106 kilograms of plastic per capita, which is more than what is produced by China and other Asian countries. However, it’s only over the last couple of years that the plastic crisis in Japan has come to light. Even though Japan boasts about its plastic recycling processes, the initiative is surely not enough, and these processes aren’t what they seem to be. For the most part of their “recycling” process, the East Asian country simply burns plastic to generate energy. This, in turn, produces carbon dioxide, which contributes to global warming.

Since last year, several news stories have exposed the overwhelming amount of plastic waste in the seas and beaches of Japan, resulting in rising levels of air and water pollution. Research shows that sea waste in Japan is 27 times greater than the waste in the oceans worldwide. The government has taken over the charge in an attempt to put an end to the plastic waste crisis once and for all. However, this initiative caused an uproar in the plastic industry, as they claimed that the root of the problem lies in the ill-management of the plastic by consumers, which is a part of the issue, but not really the main contributing factor to the waste pollution in Japan.

Plastic poses major environmental threats. Due to this reason, the government advocates the ban of plastic bags and packaging in Japan.

What Japan Is Doing to Win Its Battle Against Plastic

Japan Retailers to Charge for Plastic Bags

One of the main reasons why plastic waste is so prevalent in Japan is because it is readily available, and consumers are using it mindlessly. More than individuals, industries should be blamed for the environmental issue as they dump heaps of plastic in the sea and in landfills all over the country. They do this without thinking twice about the adverse effects that this action can have on marine life.

However, to stop this environmental nuisance, the government of Japan has come up with a solid proposal to fight plastic waste for good. According to the new plan, Japanese retailers ought to charge a small fee for plastic bags from the buyers. According to the government, this move will encourage shoppers to take a paper or grocery bag along with them when they go grocery shopping.

The government has not put any specific price on each plastic bag. Each retailer (at a supermarket, drugstore, convenience store, and department store) is free to decide how much they would like to charge. That being said, the ministry expects the retailers to charge somewhere between a few yen to 10 yen per bag. The revenue earned through this plan should be invested in environmental restoration plans, such as forestation, recycling, supporting organizations that address pollution, etc.

This necessary initiative came after the backlash that Japan faced from the various G20 economies. They criticized Japan for being slow to progress on its plan to reduce plastic waste piled up in the seas.

Hiring Environmental Groups to Raise Awareness

In an effort to reduce plastic consumption nationwide, Japan aims to reach out to conservation organizations to help spread awareness among the masses about the perils of plastic. One of the biggest reasons that lead to the excessive use of plastic is the lack of knowledge. Many people don’t realize the dangers plastic can pose to the environment. This is why it has become easier to dump garbage anywhere but the bin. Clearly, raising awareness of plastic waste has become the need of the hour.

The government also aims to launch campaigns on environmental indicators. These useful campaigns will sound the alarm over the excessive use of plastic, its harmful impact, and the necessary steps that need to be taken to reduce the daily use of plastic.

Manufacturers Moving to Biodegradable Plastics and Other High-End Alternatives

Local manufacturing companies have turned to sustainable packaging, following the international demand for environmental-friendly products.

In 2017, China banned the use of foreign plastic to improve the country’s environmental conditions. Since then, several global investors have pressurized other Asian countries, including Japan, to follow suit. Besides that, the demand for non-biodegradable plastic has dipped over the past couple of years. This has also resulted in many plastic manufacturing companies withdrawing their production of plastic.

Renowned companies such as Mitsubishi Chemical Holdings, Sumitomo Chemicals, Idemitsu Kosan, and Shin-Etsu Chemical, have come forward in favor of biodegradable plastic. Most of these companies are dedicating their funds to the production of environmental-friendly packaging. Several retailer companies, such as Seven & I Holdings Co., have also backed off from the use of plastic. The company aims to move from plastic bags to paper bags by 2030.

Final Words

Plastic bags and packages are made from non-renewable materials that contribute to global climate change. Plus, these materials don’t degrade, which further adds fuel to the fire. The plastic-ban policies and other moves taken by the Japanese government in recent times have brought a positive change – it has considerably reduced the production and consumption of plastic bags in the country. If the ban on plastic persists, Japan can get rid of its plastic waste problem for good!

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