Reduce / Reuse / Recycle

May 22, 2013


Japanese NGO Calls for National Polity to Reduce Single Use Shopping Bags

Keywords: NGO / Citizen Non-manufacturing industry Reduce / Reuse / Recycle 

While some chain stores and local governments in Japan are actively trying to reduce their use of plastic shopping bags, others have not yet taken any action, and the gap between them has grown. In July 2012, Seiyu, a major Japanese supermarket chain, started charging its customers for plastic bags in all its stores, and in February 2013, Ito-Yokado, another major supermarket chain, followed suit. These companies are applauded for making the first step to reduce their plastic use, but some say the price they charge is too low, at two yen per bag (about 2.2 US cents). Also, cooperative initiatives involving consumers and local governments have yet to be seen. In this context, it is difficult to predict the results of these initiatives.

Efforts to reduce the use of plastic shopping bags have been driven by local frameworks up to now, through agreement with active chain stores and local governments that consumer education is necessary. The price point is important too. For instance, at stores that charged five yen (about 5.6 US cents) per bag, more than 80 percent of customers declined to take a bag. However, even in those areas, convenience stores still don't charge for bags. In addition, the uptake of this initiative is by far the slowest in urban areas, where the largest number of bags is used.

Overseas, some countries are legally banning the provision of free plastic shopping bags, while in others stores have already been charging customers for plastic bags since many years ago in line with business practice instead of legislation. Friends of the Earth (FoE) Japan, a Japanese environmental organization, released a proposal including this issue, titled "Rich Life with Less Resources" on February 19, 2013, with the aim of creating the systems to prevent waste generation. In it, FoE calls for a national law requiring retailers to set a target to reduce their single use of plastic shopping bags, and says it is desirable to create a system with the cooperation of both customers and retailers in order to get the best results.

Written by Ryoko Seguchi, FoE Japan

Related JFS article:
Supermarket Chains in Japan Hold Contest to Curb Plastic Shopping Bag Use
MOE Launches Online Tool to Calculate Reduced Life Cycle Impacts on Environment of Retailers' 3R Activities
Community, Local Government Working Together to Reduce Use of Plastic Bags in Oita Prefecture