Japan looks to cut plastic waste by 25%


 An expert panel of the Central Environment Council, an advisory body to the Minister of the Environment, endorsed in February this year a draft strategy for reduction of disposable plastic, including a mandatory charge for shopping bags. It set a goal to cut the annual discharge of plastic waste by 25% by 2030. The ministry plans to start applying the rules based on the strategy to retailers such as supermarkets and convenience stores some time after fiscal 2020.

  According to the Nikkei newspaper dated last October 19, about 9 million tons of plastic waste are discharged annually in Japan, of which about 4 million tons are disposable plastics such as packaging containers, bottles and shopping bags. General waste discharged by households accounts for about 80% of the total. One estimate says that 45 billion pieces of plastic shopping bags are used annually in Japan. According to the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), Japan ranks second after the United States in terms of plastic waste per person.

  The Japanese government is discussing a revision of the Containers and Packaging Recycling Law to make reduced use of packaging materials compulsory so that shops can charge customers for getting a shopping bag. However, few countries have enacted a charge for shopping bags instead of a total ban. How to penalize violators will have to be defined in order to make such rule really effective.

Some local governments in Japan have voluntarily set up ordinances in a move to let shoppers pay for bags. According to Nikkei, Tokyo’s Suginami Ward introduced such ordinance in 2008. It said more customers have begun to carry their own bags when visiting supermarkets, adding that the ratio of such shoppers rose to an average 34% in fiscal 2015.

Outside Japan, more than 60 countries have taken measures to ban plastic bags or make them chargeable. A report released last August by the Ministry of the Environment said a ban has been opted by China, Taiwan, India, France and some African countries while bags have been made chargeable in the Netherlands, Portugal and Indonesia. In the Netherlands, the annual consumption of plastic bags dropped by 40% after shops began charging an equivalent of 34 yen per bag in 2016.

  The European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, announced in 2018 a policy to completely abolish disposable plastic packaging including food containers by 2030. It is imperative for each and every citizen to refrain from using plastic as campaigns for plastic waste reduction gains momentum throughout the world.

 (Written by: Yuto Yawata)









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