Starting in July, Japan’s three major convenience store chains (7-Eleven, Lawson, and Family Mart) will charge between ¥3 and ¥5 per plastic shopping bag, and other retailers will charge as much as ¥10 per bag. This is because the government will require retailers across the country to charge for disposable plastic shopping bags starting on July 1 in an effort to reduce the growing amount of plastic waste Japan produces.
Japan is the world’s second biggest producer of waste per capita, after the U.S., with consumers going through 30 billion plastic bags a year.
The Japanese government has committed to reduce single-use plastic by 25% by 2030. However, there is recognition that the proportion of plastic bags among all plastic waste is not big. Charging for them would be a symbolic measure that is meant to raise people’s awareness about the problem.
Which plastic bags?
Plastic bags applicable to the revised Containers and Wrapping Materials Recycling law are defined as “one-time use plastic shopping bags derived from fossil resources that consumers use to carry purchased products.” Exclusions include bags that contain at least 25% plant-derived materials, marine biodegradable plastic bags, and plastic bags with a width of .05-mm or more. For hygiene reasons, thin roll bags usually used to package vegetables, for example, are also excluded.
- 7-Eleven announced that it will charge ¥3 for small to medium-sized bags (including bento bags) and ¥5 for large bags at all of its 29,000 stores nationwide.
- Lawson will charge ¥3 per plastic bar, regardless of size.
- 7-Eleven, Lawson, and Family Mart will all sell plastic bags with at least 30% biomass, to lessen the environmental impact.
- 7-Eleven will also retain a portion of the proceeds from the sale of plastic bags to devote to local environmental conservation activities.
In June, Daimaru Matsuzakaya already made the switch to charging shoppers for plastic bags. The department store sells bags with 30% biomass for between ¥3 and ¥5 a piece.
Takashimaya was even faster to the gate and started charging between ¥2 and ¥8 per bag (which have 90% biomass) in April.
Isetan Mitsukoshi will abolish plastic bags from fresh food counters in July and will sell paper bags with handles for ¥30 to ¥50 each.
Tokyu Hands and even Japan Post
Tokyu Hands has announced that starting in July, it will charge ¥10 per bag, regardless of size, and will gradually phase out sales of all plastic-based products in favor of paper-based ones.
You should also plan to bring-your-own-bag when going to the post office in July, as Japan Post will also start charging between ¥3 and ¥10 per plastic shopping bag.
Sources: Mainichi newspaper, June 5, 2020 (in Japanese), Mainichi newspaper (in Japanese), November 1, 2019; The Guardian, “Japan’s plastic problem: Tokyo spearheads push at G20 to tackle waste” June 27, 2019
Lead photo: Via Watch.impress.co.jp